Cry Me a River: A Julie London Tribute
Skokie Theatre, Skokie, IL, February 24, 2017
Reviewed by Carla Gordon for Cabaret Scenes
Smoky alto Anne Burnell salutes smoky alto Julie London well in an entertaining program of pop and jazz standards. Burnell captured well the laid back, less-is-more delivery that reflected London’s signature style. It is interesting to note that Burnell frequently makes music with her husband, pianist Mark Burnell, who served ably as musical director for Cry Me a River, while London often collaborated with her husband, Bobby Troup —most noted for composing “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66”— in similar jazz-oriented musical projects. Speaking of “Route 66,” one of the show’s strongest moments came when pianist joined singer for an a cappella duet of Troup’s classic. Somehow Team Burnell creates with two voices a sense of instrumentality and grand rhythm. Burnell fans now wait eagerly for these magical numbers. We appreciated familiar songs, like “Black Coffee” (Sonny Burke/Paul Francis Webster) and Bart Howard’s “Fly Me to the Moon.” Some less familiar numbers were particularly interesting. “In the Middle of a Kiss” (Sam Coslow) is a sensuous discovery of the beginning of a romance, and Burnell shares her discovery with aplomb. While London was certainly not known for comedy, most concerts and cabarets can use some. Burnell gives us just that in her sly, sassy offering of “Nice Girls Don’t Stay for Breakfast” (Jerome LeShay/Bobby Troup). Team Burnell met the challenge of keeping the program musically engaging. “Desafinado” gave us Jobim’s Latin rhythm. “And I Love Him” brought the sensual side of Lennon and McCartney. Sidemen Paul Wertico on drums, and especially guitarist Henry Johnson, along with Burnell on piano, provided complex, jazzy musical riffs that added interesting layers to the evenings musical offerings. The Burnells may want to flesh out the short slide show featuring photos of London and Troup: We needed more than a tiny visual taste. At times, it seemed that the vocal mic needed more volume. Arthur Resnick and Joey Levine’s “Yummy Yummy Yummy” (Yes, the one about “love in my tummy”) was a fun and unexpected closer. No one was crying that river: We were grinning from ear to ear.