The Janes

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The Janes

(Sula Haska, Christine Ranck, Patti Wyss)

The Triad, NYC, December 8, 2017

Reviewed by Alix Cohen for Cabaret Scenes

The Janes

The “girls”—Sula Haska, Christine Ranck, Patti Wysshave been singing together under a laundry list of names for—wait for it—42 years! Harmony is their calling card. Arrangements (Wyss and Ed Cionek) are original to known recordings or meant to emulate eras. We hear numbers popularized by New Orleans’ Boswell Sisters; The Andrews Sisters including, oddly, much later in the show, a rendition of the iconic “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” (Don Raye/Hughie Prince); The Chordettes “Mr. Sandman” (Pat Ballard); and The McGuire Sisters “Sugartime” (Charlie Phillips/Odis Echols).

These early sounds are fun to hear and well executed.

Rudy Clark’s “The Shoop Shoop Song” (“It’s in His Kiss”) begins the 1950s: “Does he love me?/ I want to know/How can I tell if he loves me so?/Is it in his eyes?/Oh no! You’ll be deceived/Is it in his sighs?/Oh no! He’ll make believe/ If you want to know if he loves you so/It’s in his kiss…” Remember? Lynn Duddy/Lee Pockriss’ “Johnny Angel” misses cottony delivery. Richard Fagan/Ed Hill’s rockabilly “Be My Baby Tonight” is recollected as having been performed by the group wearing lime green polyester gowns. Eyebrows rise. This is known territory. The trio grew up with the songs and infuse them with great affection. All over the club, women mouth lyrics.

A lengthy “Medley: Women in Transition (Sexist Songs)” compiled by The Janes is sequentially very clever. This might’ve been a show about women’s evolution using ’30s, ’40s and ’50s –even a ’60s song.

As it is, the parenthesis remains part of a loosely knit patchwork. Songs don’t lead into one another; they just stop and start.

Songs by Destiny’s Child, Wilson Phillips, and Paul Simon feel out of place. Both voices and style fare less well. The same might be said for “River Deep, Mountain High” (Phil Spector/Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich), except that its use as an anthem kind of fits.

There are several shows here, as if a decision was never made which way to go. The group needs an editor/director. Most of the packed audience appear to be friends, co-workers, and family, but this is a public performance, not a private reunion. Patter describes far too much of their lives and often seems improvised; numbers arrive in excess. Singing an elaborate “Happy Birthday” to a group member is inappropriate. Unless you’re Marilyn Maye on a roll, a cabaret show should not run over two hours (no intermission).

After guiding chronological order, songs jump eras, losing any sense of evolution. Sporadically injected Christmas songs relate to nothing else. If you close your eyes, the ladies are “with” one another, but, visibly, one gestures, a second moves her body, a third does neither. Synchronicity of at least arm movements would enhance this immeasurably. Expressions are all over the place. Despite talent and apparent closeness, The Janes never achieve the complicity of good girl groups.

Alix Cohen

Alix Cohen’s writing began with poetry, segued into lyrics then took a commercial detour. She now authors pieces about culture/the arts, including reviews and features. A diehard proponent of cabaret, she’s also a theater aficionado, a voting member of Drama Desk, The Drama League and of The NY Press Club in addition to MAC. Currently, Alix writes for Cabaret Scenes, Theater Pizzazz and Woman Around Town. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine and Times Square Chronicles. Alix is the recipient of six New York Press Club Awards.