Klea Blackhurst: One of the Girls

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Klea Blackhurst

One of the Girls

Birdland, NYC, August 28, 2019

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg for Cabaret Scenes

Klea Blackhurst
Photo: Kevin Alvey

“I was a teenage Mame!,” declared the propulsive Klea Blackhurst in her new show, One of the Girls, a tribute to Jerry Herman. Long before she starred in the 50th-anniversary production of Hello, Dolly! at Goodspeed Opera House, she proudly considered herself one of “Jerry’s girls” when she played the outrageous aunt in a lavish high school production. She regaled the audience with hysterical tales of that event before encouraging the packed room to “Open a New Window.” This was just one moment in a remarkable evening in which she celebrated Herman, and the audience, filled with half the membership of MAC, celebrated Blackhurst.

Gifted with perfect enunciation, a clarion voice that recalls a certain other Dolly, an innate sense of humor, and a limitless generosity of heart, no one else is better qualified to inhabit the joyful optimism of this songwriter. The evening built toward a trio of works that celebrate survival, individualism, and strength: “I’ll Be Here Tomorrow,” “Each Tomorrow Morning,” and the anthem “I Am What I Am.

” Not that she stayed away from negative thoughts, offering up a truly brilliant “I Don’t Want to Know,” effortlessly capturing the fear, despair, and anger of the lyric. There was also a beautifully bittersweet “Time Heals Everything,” effectively paired with the only non-Herman melody of the evening, Irving Berlin’s “What’ll I Do?”

Seamless direction was provided by Mark Waldrop with strong musical support by Michael Rice, who led the Pocket Change Trio/ The arrangements favored a traditional Broadway approach (“Just Go to the Movies”) but sometimes added swing to the fun (“Put on Your Sunday Clothes,” complete with Blackhurst throwing off some surprising jazz inflections in her handling of the up-tempo melody). Much of the show was developed via high tech methods as the diva has been up at Glimmerglass most of the summer, and it showed in some slightly under-rehearsed patter and an occasional confusion between instrumentalists and singer—“I have trouble with endings” she quipped after one faulty conclusion. But she had no trouble with the ending of the show, triumphantly belting out back to back “World, Take Me Back” and “Before the Parade Passes By” to the well-earned cheers of the audience.

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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."