Lori Donato: Sojourn

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Lori Donato


Tom Rolla’s Gardenia, West Hollywood, CA, September 24, 2016

Reviewed by Mary Bogue for Cabaret Scenes

After 30 years in the business, singing around Los Angeles and years of criss-crossing Europe and entertaining on cruise ships, Lori Donato made her debut at the famed Gardenia. In Donato’s words, it was time to “Start the party.

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Conveying the story of her life from the formative years in South Dakota where “my life was a mess,” she left behind her career as a high school teacher and took a major leap of faith, landing her in Berlin. Along the way she ended up married, unmarried, in Sweden and the world was her stage.

She opened with “The Song Is You” (Oscar Hammerstein/Jerome Kern) and then put a Latin spin on “This Could Be the Start of Something” (Steve Allen). In grand voice and nightclub style, the statuesque Donato delivered a terrific “Woman in the Moon” (Paul Williams/Kenny Ascher) and moved seamlessly from stage to behind the piano to sing, in French, “Lili Marlene” (Norbert Schultze/Hans Leip).

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She tore up the house describing the men in her life with “Broken Down Kitchen Blues” (Cami Thompson) as the crowd enthusiastically whooped, hollered and applauded.

We traveled with her on her cruise ship adventures with “Rio de Janeiro Blue” (Richard Torrance/John Haeny) and a super assist from drummer Jack LeCompte. Switching gears, Rick Hils skillfully jazzed up “Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home” (Johnny Mercer/Harold Arlen). A “cougar” before it was fashionable, her “Bye Bye Country Boy” (Blossom Dearie/Jack Segal) was stunning. Donato brought it all home as the audience clapped along, and she and Hils took us on a “Detour” (Paul Westmoreland). Her Duke Ellington mash-up was masterful, and the encore, “Angels on Your Pillow,” composed by the present Paul Horner (lyrics by Peggy Lee) was just heavenly.

The next stop on her journey is Palm Springs for her show at The Purple Room.

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.