The Right to Cabaret

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The Right to Cabaret

Tom Rolla’s Gardenia, West Hollywood, CA, November 16, 2019
Reviewed by Les Traub

MaryJo Mundy

MaryJo Mundy (pictured) hosted the first of a new monthly Gardenia Residency series called The Right to Cabaret. Joining her in a clever opening number with that title were upcoming series rotating hosts Hillary Rollins (the series producer) and Alexis Gach.

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The song “The Right to Cabaret,” with lyrics by Rollins and music by Howard Pearl, detailed humorously what the trio had or had not done to earn “the right to cabaret.” The voices of these first-class vocalists blended beautifully in the opener.

The plan for these evenings is to have the host perform, along with guest stars and a “Sing by the Seat of Your Pants” lottery where one audience member gets to do a number. Opening guests were Mundy’s mentor, Broadway star Karen Morrow, singer/songwriter Tracy Newman, and Eric Seppala. Singer/songwriter Kevin Kelso was the lottery winner.

Morrow, in a rare but most welcome cabaret appearance, delivered a delicious reading of “A Little Lift,” written by Billy Barnes for Jane A Johnston. She then changed it up with a sweet and lovely “What Are You Doing New Year’ s Eve?” (Frank Loesser). Emmy-winning writer Newman (for the “coming out” episode of Ellen), accompanying herself on guitar, performed some of her own folk-oriented songs, including a wonderful breakup song, for someone one is still attached to, called “Goodbye.” Kelso, accompanying himself on piano, presented a relationship song about the need to apologize, topically called “Melania.” Seppala’s finely tuned comedic touch was effectively applied to Mary Liz McNamara’s “Bacon” and “Taylor the Latte Boy” (Marcy Heisler/Zina Goldrich).

Mundy, often cited as having one of the best set of pipes in cabaret, sang a range of material during the evening. She belted some songs from Gypsy, which created a lively buzz in the room, and then changed that atmosphere to a quiet stillness with an exquisite version of “Little Lamb.” She closed the show with a poignant medley of Stephen Sondheim’s “Loving You” and “Not While I’m Around,” which she dedicated to the Gardenia’s Bruce Lohman and the late Tom Rolla, whose presence is still felt in the room.

Music Director Ross Kalling had a wide range of songs to deal with, which he handled with ease.

Les Traub

Les Traub has been covering the cabaret scene for over twenty years. He is a co-founder and President of Cabaret West and has produced cabaret shows at the Jazz Bakery, Cinegrill, Gardenia, El Portal Theatre, Pasadena Playhouse and at UCLA. He co-produced and wrote a Sammy Cahn tribute show at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills. He is Chairman of the Board of Musical Theatre Guild, where he co- produced Sail Away, High Spirits, Little Mary Sunshine and Street Scene at the Alex Theatre. He has lectured on cabaret in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Connecticut. .