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Two E Bar, NYC, May 7, 2018

Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes


When it comes to power vocals, who ya’ gonna call? Why, N’Kenge, of course. The diva (and she is that in the truest sense of the word) not only has a voice of immense depth and range, but she knows how to use it to its best advantage. In this turn at the (relatively) new venue, Two E Bar in the Pierre Hotel, she assessed the dynamic of the very intimate space and tailored her presentation to its intimacy. Thus, the singer chose mostly toned- down, slower tempos on her numbers, while still delivering the strength and nuance of singing that she’s known for.

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Referencing her run as Mary Wells in Broadway’s Motown, she began with spirited renditions of  “Two Lovers” and “My Guy.”

With a naturalistic style, the singer’s narrative also was recounted with intimacy in mind. Hitting the highlights of her career and life, her very personal story was illustrated with numbers such as  “Poor Sweet Baby“ and “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road).” Tenderest moments were in reference to her husband and three-year-old daughter, Jahzara Martina, with “At Last” and “I Got Love.

” Yet, N’Kenge is one who’s found the key to balancing career and home life.

She has achieved success on the theatrical and concerts stages and in solo acts.

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Demonstrating her range, she dipped into opera and sang an impressive “Habanera” (“Dat’s Love”) from Carmen/Carmen Jones, a peek into her upcoming musical about Dorothy Dandridge, star of the film version of Carmen Jones. Saving her diva-bility for last, N’Kenge belted a “wicked” “Defying Gravity” and summed up the theme of her show with “Ridin’ High.” Music director Josh Knight provided yeoman artistry at the piano.

Marilyn Lester

Marilyn Lester left journalism and commercial writing behind nearly two decades ago to write plays. That branch in the road led to screenwriting, script-doctoring, dramaturgy and producing for the stage. Marilyn has also co-authored, as well as edited, books. It seemed the only world of words she hadn’t conquered was criticism, an opportunity that presented itself via Theater Pizzazz. Marilyn has since sought to widen her scope in this form of writing she especially relishes. Marilyn is a member of the Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild, Women in the Arts and Media and The League of Professional Theater Women.