Claudine Cassan-Jellison: Packing Orders

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Claudine Cassan-Jellison

Packing Orders

Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, January 7, 2019

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg for Cabaret Scenes

Claudine Cassan-Jellison

Packing Orders resides at the rare nexus of cabaret and musical theater, and to it Claudie Cassan-Jellison brought the confidence, sure talent, and powerful voice of a Broadway star. It is a one-act play about packing up a life and deciding what to keep and what to discard, filled with a variety of songs from the theater, ’60s pop, and French chanson. Cassan-Jellison may have been the only person on stage (besides music director David Gaines and bassist Ritt Henn), but she was joined by Julie LaVerne, Peter Pan, a schoolgirl named Gina, a love-sick penguin, Irma la Douce, Lynn Wintersteller, and Sally Mayes. She understudied the last two in Closer Than Ever and, for one memorable performance that she recreated as part of this show, played both roles at the same time with hysterical results. There was also a French-singing Dolly Gallagher Levi.
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Some of the songs were offered as snippets or parts of medleys, but given the chance to offer a full ballad, showing her interpretative skill and fine-tuned sense of shaping a melody, she soared.
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“New Words” and “Bill” have rarely been given finer interpretations, and the hysterical “Los Pinguinos” (that love-sick penguin mentioned above) demonstrated a true sense of comedic delivery. A seamless medley of several songs by French composer Marguerite Monnot paid tribute to the diva’s Gallic grandmother and her gift of music to her granddaughter.

Under the sure direction of Barry Kleinbort, the dialogue (far deeper than patter) was witty, interesting, and consistently relevant to the theme of the show. Effective and illuminating projections raised the show to a higher level as well. Hopefully, Packing Orders will return for several more sessions of unpacking the rare talents of Claudine Cassan-Jellison.

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."