Laura Michelle Kelly: Both Sides Now

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Laura Michelle Kelly

Both Sides Now

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, November 7, 2017

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg for Cabaret Scenes

Laura Michelle Kelly

The lady sure can sing. She’s charming and funny. But Laura Michelle Kelly’s new show, Both Sides Now, errs in trying to show all her sides. Kelly is best known as a musical theater performer, having won the Olivier Award as Mary Poppins, starring on Broadway in Finding Neverland, and touring in The King and I. When she delivers songs from this genre, simply and directly, she is at her best.

But Kelly kicked off the show with a high voltage rock arrangement of “I Feel the Earth Move,” in an unusual costume of a wraparound Chinese print dress over black pailleted pants.

Considering what followed, this was all a little confusing. Also, with five musicians on stage and cranked up reverb, the program, at times, seemed better suited for a larger auditorium than the site provided.
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Despite these caveats, there was much pleasure to find in the evening. The theme of the show was a salute to those female musical icons who had influenced Kelly’s career, from her singing teacher to Julie Andrews, Marin Mazzie, Bernadette Peters, and many others. An exquisite “Children Will Listen” with just piano accompaniment was one of the highlights, as was a powerful “Back to Before.” Barbra Streisand was well recognized with both “A Piece of Sky” and “Evergreen,” as well as more contemporary artists, including Celine Dion (guest Jessica Vosk offered up a hysterical imitation).

Handsome Kevin Kern also showed up to offer a charming, if silly, duet on “Anything You Can Do.” Madeline Smith provided musical direction and delicate piano accompaniment, and the entire evening was under the direction of Sammi Cannold.

The adorable Kelly has a great deal to offer the cabaret world once she learns to simplify and better define who she wants to be on stage.
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Bart Greenberg

Bart Greenberg first discovered cabaret a few weeks after arriving in New York City by seeing Julie Wilson and William Roy performing Stephen Sondheim and Cole Porter outdoors at Rockefeller Center. It was instant love for both Ms. Wilson and the art form. Some years later, he was given the opportunity to create his own series of cabaret shows while working at Tower Records. "Any Wednesday" was born, a weekly half-hour performance by a singer promoting a new CD release. Ann Hampton Callaway launched the series. When Tower shut down, Bart was lucky to move the program across the street to Barnes & Noble, where it thrived under the generous support of the company. The series received both The MAC Board of Directors Award and The Bistro Award. Some of the performers who took part in "Any Wednesday" include Barbara Fasano and Eric Comstock, Tony Desare, Andrea Marcovicci, Carole Bufford, the Karens, Akers, Mason and Oberlin, and Julie Wilson. Privately, Greenberg is happily married to writer/photographer Mark Wallis, who as a performance artist in his native England gathered a major following as "I Am Cereal Killer."