Christine Ebersole: An Evening with Christine Ebersole

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Christine Ebersole

An Evening with Christine Ebersole

Alice Tully Hall, NYC, February 20, 2019

Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Christine Ebersole

In a nearly two-hour concert (which she several times called a cabaret), Christine Ebersole held the big stage at Alice Tully Hall with authority, charm, and spectacular talent, creating a performance for the memory books. The material was diverse and the narrative was personal, smartly conceived, and often funny. The lady has a talent for comedy spoken and sung. Her rendition of the 1946 jump blues number, “Ain’t Nobody Here but Us Chickens” (Alex Kramer/Joan Whitney) was proof positive. What quickly emerged is that Ebersole is as fine an actor as she is a singer. In both regards she masters a range of genres and emotions with insight and great vocal flexibility. Never a real belter, she gets the most of out of her crystalline tones with vocal control and dynamics. Particularly evocative were renditions of “I’m Old Fashioned” (Jerome Kern/Johnny Mercer), “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?” (Burton Lane/E.Y. Harburg) and “Bill” (Kern/P.G. Wodehouse/Oscar Hammerstein II).

Creative and fresh arrangements applied throughout, spotlighting Ebersole’s mastery of phrasing. Her opening number, “Lullaby of Broadway” (Harry Warren/Al Dubin) was a stunner, delivered in a slow tempo as a story. Likewise, “42nd Street” (Warren/Dubin) was begun as slow nighttime noir and, after a jazzy band interlude, continued as bright daylight bawdy.

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“Yesterdays” (Kern/Otto Harbach), which  morphed into “Lazy Afternoon” (John Latouche/Jerome Moross) told a seamless, haunting story. Likewise, “Little Green” (Joni Mitchell) flowing into “The Inch Worm” (Frank Loesser) was an intense, empathic dedication to birth mothers (Ebersole’s three children are adopted).

Special guest Scott Frankel, the composer of the score of Grey Gardens (for which Ebersole won her second Tony Award) and War Paint, reminisced with and accompanied Ebersole on “Will You” from the former and “Pink” from the latter (lyrics for both by Michael Korie). Ending the show, Ebersole sang a reverent hymn and powerfully recited Joyce Kilmer’s poem “Trees,” launching immediately into an intense, rousing anthem of “I Happen to Like New York” (Cole Porter). Her heartfelt farewell was a quiet and sincere “My Shining Hour” (Arlen/Mercer).

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The band—music director and piano Lawrence Yurman,  Aaron Heick (reeds), Paul Woodiel (violin and viola), David Finck (bass), and Jared Schonig (drums)—gave excellent support as a mini orchestra. Scott Wittman directed with clarity and precision.

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.