Sally Darling: Sally Darling Sings…Beatrice Lillie

Sally Darling

Sally Darling Sings…Beatrice Lillie

Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, April 29, 2018

Reviewed by Randolph B. Eigenbrode for Cabaret Scenes

Sally Darling

While the lyrics to Sally Darling’s finale song were not introduced until 17 years after Beatrice Lillie’s death, they seem to expertly capture the madcap sentiment of the expert comedienne.

“As we stumble, bumble, fumble, plumble along.”

And Darling brings all of the acerbic wit that one would expect in a love letter like this.  Even resembling Lillie, in a way, Darling goes full tilt celebrating the sometimes absurd but always sentimentality-eschewing performer.

“I Always Say Hello to a Flower” (Murray Grand) and “I’ve Been to a Marvelous Party” (Noël Coward) allow her to highlight the intrinsic humor (and double entendre) at every turn.

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Both pack punch, particularly when compared to most current pop pieces favored by cabaret performers. Darling especially conjures Lillie’s enchanting dynamic in “Maud (You’re Rotten to the Core)”—written by sister Muriel Lillie. Negotiating between pompous and bizarre, Darling puts over the song with aplomb, quietly skewering the self-absorbed upper crust.

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Lillie’s songbook is just the type of material that resonates with New York’s (mostly) cosmopolitan and intellectual cabaret crowd. So why does this show feel out of sync?

At times, Darling seems to find the material funnier than her audience does, laughing with abandon at her own punch lines. And then there’s her distant air: lack of eye contact with the crowd combined with overly scripted patter. This seems to keep her in a vacuum, missing the conversational accessibility that Lillie naturally inhabited.

But, she thaws towards the end, particularly with a tender and vulnerable “I’m So Weary of It All” (Coward). Springing with an unexpected honesty, Darling allows herself to counter the forlorn nature of the song with a simple smile:

“The songs I used to sing/ Now I have to swing./ I’m so weary of it all.”

Indeed, one can’t feel weary with this witty material. But, in this showing, it’s hard to feel wowed either. Darling has engaging moments and, perhaps, with music she can put her own stamp on, an audience could truly love her. But, in the meantime, it’s best to let those “mad dogs” lie.

Randolph B. Eigenbrode

Randolph is the newest addition to the writing staff at Cabaret Scenes. He is a cabaret teacher, previously teaching with legend Erv Raible, and his students have gone on to success in the field with sold-out shows and many awards. He is also a director and that, combined with a knowledge of the art form and techniques that cabaret performing encompasses, makes him love reviewing NYC’s cabaret scene. When not catching the Big Apple’s crazy talent, Randolph loves 1970s variety shows, mall Chinese food, Meryl Streep films and a good cold glass of pinot grigio.