Lori Donato: A Musical Journey

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Lori Donato

A Musical Journey

Nethercutt Museum, Sylmar, CA, June 11, 2016

Reviewed by Mary Bogue for Cabaret Scenes

Lori-Donato-Cabaret-Scenes-Magazine_212In a spectacular setting amidst the most breathtaking pianos, Wurlitzers and perfectly restored classic cars, Lori Donato brought perfect classic cabaret to a full house of those appreciating the finest items from the Nethercutt Collection. For the first time ever, it was Donato who premiered a vocal performance to their truly appreciative audience.

Setting the tone for this unique experience, Donato enthusiastically opened with an aptly titled “This Could Be the Start of Something” (Steve Allen). She was playful on Barry Manilow/Bruce Sussman’s “Meet Me, Midnight” and was joyfully connected to the lyrics of “Make Someone Happy” (Comden & Green/Styne). Donato masterfully blended storytelling and songs, with terrific assists by Rick Hils on piano, Chris Conner on bass and Kenny Elliot on drums.

Donato gave us her account of worldly travels and at-home bouts of marriage, teaching and being a chanteuse playing piano for herself over the years. She serenaded in German with “Lili Marlene” (Norbert Schultze/Hans Leip), giving a true taste of Marlene Deitrich’s life. And then, in direct contrast, she killed with “Broken-Down Kitchen Blues” as the audience wildly clapped along to Cami Thompson’s sassy song.

True to her mentor, Marilyn Maye, Donato moved effortlessly across the stage, and left instrumental solos for another day. Pure Marilyn! She was sweet and tender on the emotionally charged “You’d Better Love Me” (Hugh Martin/Timothy Gray) as she worked the audience.

Seemingly inexhaustible, she returned to a second set with perfect phrasing, sang right in her pocket, and gave a stunning interpretation of “99 Miles from L.A.” (Hal David/Albert Hammond). She tore it up on “Bye Bye Country Boy” (Blossom Dearie/Jack Segal) with great patter, piano and bass. Her Ellington mash-up showcased her sexiness, and jazzier chops. The crowd was wild for her “The Song Is You” (Oscar Hammerstein/Jerome Kern) and rewarded her deeply moving “Angels on Your Pillow” (Paul Horner/Peggy Lee) with a standing ovation. She gave a stirring encore with the title cut from her new CD Wind in My Sails (JoAnne Kurman/Sandy Sherman).

Look for Lori Donato  to bring this marvelous show to the Gardenia in Hollywood, and other venues in and out of Palm Springs. Grab a ticket, because like all those luxury items in the Nethercutt, she’s a well-seasoned classic sure to deliver ooohs and ahhhhs.

Mary Bogue

Born to upstate New York parents Nelson Binner and Gladys Witt, Mary Bogue was the fourth of five children. Her love of acting was apparent early in her life, when she acted out imagined scenes in the second story hallway of their home on Division Street. Moving to California in 1959 only fueled the fire and soon she tried out and got the part in Beauty and the Beast, a children's production at The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. The bug followed her into junior and high school productions, but when she struck out on her own in the early 70s, she found it wasn't as easy as sitting at the world famous Schwab's on Sunset. Her first audition stopped her dead in her tracks for years when the "casting director" expected nudity. It was only in 1990 that she returned to her first love, albeit slowly as she was a caregiver to 16 foster daughters. Only when she was cast in Antonio Bandera's directorial debut, Crazy in Alabama (1999)(which she was cut from) did she pursue this dream.