Jennifer Blades: Bon Appétit

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Jennifer Blades

Bon Appétit

The Cabaret at Germano’s, Baltimore, Maryland, March 9, 2018

Reviewed by Michael Miyazaki for Cabaret Scenes

Jennifer Blades

When people ask me what “cabaret material” is, I usually say that it is anything that can be a compelling, shared experience between performer and audience, the effectiveness heightened in an intimate setting. Bon Appétit, a performance piece that is part one-woman opera, part cooking demonstration, is an example of the wide range of material that, properly performed, can thrive in the cabaret setting.

The piece musicalizes Julia Child demonstrating how to make Le Gâteau au Chocolat l’Éminence Brune, a flourless chocolate cake. Writer Lee Hoiby adapted text from Child’s television show and set it to music as a through-sung work.

It contains many delightful Child aperҫus, such as “Chocolate is much more complicated than any of us suspect.” Musically, the piece takes advantage of the flutiness and crescendos we associate with Child’s voice, providing a deceptively conversational vocal line contrasted with a complicated piano accompaniment.

Jennifer Blades performed the piece with Child-like aplomb. Appearing in the chef’s familiar denim work shirt, Blades was a cheerful presence, dramatizing rather than imitating her subject. The piece is a logistical tour de force for a performer, requiring her to juggle a complex vocal line in perfect sync with an actual cooking demonstration. At one point, the work requires her to manually whip egg whites in competition with an electric mixer —singing all the while. Blades handled the many requirements seamlessly, projecting Child’s signature slapdash nonchalance throughout.

The piano accompaniment to the piece is demanding, changing keys 23 times. Diane Kinsley provided Blades with solid support, making the music feel so organic to the performance that it almost disappeared.

Michael Miyazaki

Michael Miyazaki is a Washington DC/Baltimore area-based performer, director, and writer. He has performed at various venues in the DC area, and his most recent show is Thanks for the Memories: The Musical Legacy of Bob Hope. He has appeared with numerous local theater troupes including Scena Theatre, the Source Theatre, and Fraudulent Productions. He has attended the Perry-Mansfield Cabaret Workshop (working with master teachers Andrea Marcovicci, Karen Mason, Barry Kleinbort, Christopher Denny, Shelly Markham, and David Gaines), and has also studied under Sally Mayes, Tex Arnold, Lina Koutrakos, Rick Jensen, Amanda McBroom, and Alex Rybeck. He is the creator of the blog The Miyazaki Cabaret Update: DC & Beyond (currently on hiatus) and is a member of the DC Cabaret Network and the Arts Club of Washington.