Sharon McNight: Soup to Nuts

| June 7, 2017

Sharon McNight

Soup to Nuts

The Duplex, NYC, June 1, 2017

Reviewed by Randolph B. Eigenbrode for Cabaret Scenes

Sharon McNight

When someone’s been kicking around for over four decades, she knows a few things about her given field. And certainly Sharon McNight, the brassy beltress who’s been a cabaret mainstay since the late ’70s, again proves that she can land a joke, wail a note, and inhabit her larger-than-life persona with ferocity. But after all these years, one can only question who’s behind the brash persona?

Here McNight pulls no punches, owning the stage like it was her living room. She fearlessly drives the car and the audience happily goes along for the ride, even when she veers towards personal politics or performs what can only be referred to as “chestnuts”—pieces that she’s all but exhausted over the many years. Yes, there are tributes to similarly sassy women: first, Sophie Tucker, with the defiant “If Your Kisses Can’t Hold the Man You Love” (Jack Yellen/Vivian Ellis), as well as a Mae West-styled “Everybody’s Girl” (John Kander/Fred Ebb). And no McNight show would be complete without her raucous seven-minute version of Dorothy’s Munchkinland scene in The Wizard of Oz, including spot-on mimicry of Billie Burke, Margaret Hamilton, the Lollipop Guild, et. al.

These cherished antiques kill every time and, certainly, you can’t help but adore her. But gaining an audience’s adoration isn’t the same as endearing them to you. And, unfortunately, the mask of comedy isn’t conducive to approaching naturalistic material, evident in her Judy Holliday-like attack at the beginning of “Just a Housewife” (Craig Carnelia). As the song built and climaxed, the caricature façade faded, unveiling a richly complicated woman, memorable and endearing, only to frustratingly return to the Holliday articulation for the song’s finish.

With the confidence knowing what works (and kills), McNight has one more chapter to explore in her fourth decade: dropping her dynamic of impenetrability.

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Category: Cabaret Reviews, New York City, New York City Cabaret Reviews, Regional

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