Jane Lynch: See Jane Sing!

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Jane Lynch

See Jane Sing!

Joe’s Pub, NYC, August 16, 2015

Reviewed by Joel Benjamin for Cabaret Scenes

Tim Davis, Jane Lynch, Kate Flannery Photo: Chris Haston
Tim Davis, Jane Lynch, Kate Flannery
Photo: Chris Haston

Jane Lynch, the star of TV’s Glee and such films as Best in Show and A Mighty Wind, has a terrific, legit voice. She also has a bizarre sense of humor, enabled by her talented guest artists who helped turn her strange, surreal show, See Jane Sing! at Joe’s Pub, into a kind of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse for the cabaret set.

The Tony Guerrero Quintet, led by Mr. G on trumpet, proved the perfect musical group for this show: easygoing, witty and loose. They opened with an instrumental of “When You’re Smiling” (Larry Shay/Mark Fisher/Joe Goodwin) with Guerrero’s vocal more than hinting at the great Satchmo’s rendition.

Suave-voiced, tuxedoed Tim Davis joined the band with that standard pop song “Come Fly with Me” (Jimmy Van Heusen/Sammy Cahn), almost, but not quite, parodying the slick style mastered by Sammy Davis, Jr.

Jane Lynch entered on a phony, self-deprecating note that never quite let up. “If Wishes Were Rainbows” (James & David Kennedy) was mined for its complete lack of sense, while “Slappin’ the Cakes on Me” (Dave Frishberg) was turned into a hot description of a gay pick-up. Kate Flannery—whose default line was “I’m not wearing any makeup”—joined Lynch in Irving Berlin’s “Mr. Monotony.” These two somehow turned one of the saddest songs, “Far from the Home I Love” (Jerry Bock/Sheldon Harnick) into a rollicking, screechy upbeat number.

Two songs from A Mighty Wind were reminders of the dead-on wit of Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer who, as The Folksmen, parodied the music of the folk-crazed fifties and sixties. “Mairzy Doats” (Milton Drake/Al Hoffman/Jerry Livingston), sung by all, contrasted a cool, sophisticated singing style with the silly lyrics.

Lynch’s homage to Rose-Marie’s character Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke Show included “Smile a Little Smile for Me” (Tony Macaulay/Geoff Stephens), done in a girl-group, close-harmony style by Lynch, Flannery and Davis.

There were medleys of phony-baloney love songs and “songs that made us cry as kids,” sung by all, ranging from “It Must Be Him” (Gilbert Bécaud/Maurice Vidalin/Mack David) to “Without You” (Pete Ham & Tom Evans) to “Ben” (Walter Scharf/Don Black) to that ultimate sob-fest “Honey (I Miss You)” (Bobby Russell).

“The Party’s Over” was a beautiful, close-harmony version of that Jule Styne/Comden & Green classic. However, “White Rabbit” (Grace Slick), the final encore, sung by all, was one long crescendo boring irresistibly into the gray matter.

One thing that can be said for this unique take on cabaret is that these performers were all on the same beam.

In addition to Guerrero, the Quintet consisted of Mark Visher (woodwinds), Matt Johnson (drums), David Siebels (keyboards) and David Miller (bass), all of whom had many chances to shine in Guerrero’s rich arrangements.

Joel Benjamin

A native New Yorker, Joel was always fascinated by musical theater. Luckily, he was able to be a part of seven Broadway musicals before the age of 14, quitting to pursue a pre-med degree, which led no where except back to performing in the guise of directing a touring ballet troupe. Always interested in writing, he wrote a short play in high school that was actually performed, leading to a hiatus of nearly 40 years before he returned to writing as a reviewer. Writing for Cabaret Scenes has kept him in touch with world filled with brilliance.