Celia Berk: On My Way to You: Improbable Stories That Inspired an Unlikely Path

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Celia Berk

On My Way to You: Improbable Stories That Inspired an Unlikely Path

Laurie Beechman Theatre, NYC, February 17, 2022

Reviewed by Ron Forman

Celia Berk
Photo by Helane Blumfield

On My Way to You: Improbable Stories That Inspired an Unlikely Path is a very appropriate title for Celia Berk’s show at the Laurie Beechman Theatre; the unique way in which she performed each number made each one of them a kind of short story. Berk has a lovely sound, excellent dramatic skill, and she has the ability to perform every song in the show differently from any way I had heard it performed before. The show used loving memories of performers ranging from Al Jolson to Maria Callas to describe how each inspired Berk to be where she is now. Her music director Tedd Firth provided the perfect soft accompaniment for all of her numbers. Mark Nadler directed the show.

Walking through the audience, Berk opened with a soft, slow very un-Jolson-like“April Showers.” She recalled how she grew up (as I did) listening to Jolson records with her father. After telling how she saw Ethel Merman in Annie Get Your Gun on Broadway, she amazingly did a duet with herself of “Anything You Can Do” using the pronouns I and Me for the feuding characters. After talking about the transition of Barbara Cook from beautiful young ingénue to veteran cabaret star, Berk performed two songs from Anyone Can Whistle:the title song and then a very controlled “See What It Gets You,” a song about change. A beautiful, very soft performance of the title song “On My Way to You” led into Berk’s recalling Barbra Streisand’s battles with stage fright. That segment closed with a loud performance of Charles Trenet’s “Boom” (English lyric by E. Ray Goetz) a song about sudden change.

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Surprisingly, she told us that the greatest live performance she had experienced was by Nancy Walker. She then performed the song Walker introduced, “I’m the First Girl (in the Third Scene in the Fourth Number)” from the musical Look Ma, I’m Dancing!. Recalling the trials and tribulations of Maria Callas’ life gave Berk the opportunity to display her operatic soprano with “Di rigori armoto.” (Richard Strauss) from Der Rosenkavalier.

She did a wonderfully very, very, slow, version of “The Best Is Yet to Come,” ending by holding a very high note. A medley of two rock numbers “Electricity” (Lee Hall/Elton John) and “Overjoyed” (Stevie Wonder) preceded her lilting closing number, “I Could Have Danced All Night.”

Ron Forman

Ron Forman has been a Mathematics Professor at Kingsborough Community College for 45 years. In that time, he has managed to branch out in many different areas. From 1977 to 1994 he was co-owner of Comics Unlimited, the third largest comic book distribution company in the USA. In 1999,after a lifetime of secretly wanting to do a radio program, he began his weekly Sweet Sounds program on WKRB 90.3 FM, dedicated to keeping the music of the Great American Songbook alive and accessible. This introduced him to the world of cabaret, which led to his position as a reviewer for Cabaret Scenes.