Lorna Dallas: Glamorous Nights and Rainy Days

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Lorna Dallas

Glamorous Nights and Rainy Days

Laurie Beechman Theatre, NYC, May 13, 2023

Reviewed by Alix Cohen

Lorna Dallas
Photo: Conor Weiss

Lorna Dallas is a rare breed. Her muscular soprano exhibits the formal training and stage authority of an opera singer; yet with guidance from director Barry Kleinbort, she performed with the intimacy of a veteran cabaret performer.

Glamorous Nights and Rainy Days at the Laurie Beechman Theatre was a tribute to two of the leading ladies with whom Dallas worked. The first, Cleo Laine, with whom she shared the British stage in Show Boat, was represented by “glamorous nights.” The second, Danny La Rue, who was Dolly to Dallas’ Irene Molloy in Hello, Dolly! introduced Dallas to the original context and verse of the Jimmy Van Heusen/Johnny Burke “Here’s That Rainy Day” (from 1953’s Carnival in Flanders), which she later presented replete with dialogue. It was a revelation.

A refined “Glamorous Night” (Ivor Novello/Christopher Hassall from their musical of the same name) arrived with a the pointillistic piano of music director Christopher Denny. With an innate wink, Dallas next offered the jaunty “My Big Best Shoes” (Sandy Wilson), presenting its rat-a-tat chorus as if it were giggled, followed by “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” (Jerry Herman). The performer leaned out to include us in her experience. Stephen Sondheim’s “Back in Business” bobbed up with similar effervescence: “Back in business, and ain’t it grand/Let the good times roll!,” she sang, crinkling her nose. The melody whooshed.

Michel Legrand/Alan and Marilyn Bergman’s “Summer Me, Winter Me” presented yet another mood; the vocal transitions evoked frisson, the piano was palpably tender. Carefull attention to the Denny arrangement revealed subtle layers. The lyric emerged sheathed in silk and satin; it was gorgeous. Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II expected their “In the Heart of the Dark” to be a big hit, but it wasn’t. “Sometimes the public can be wrong,” Dallas noted.
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She sang as if conjuring the power of her vision that was channeled to become manifest.

The artist conducted “By Strauss” (George and Ira Gershwin) with her right hand, which swayed, pointed, pivoted, and punctuated. Ever wry, Kleinbort had written additional lyrics: “The schlock they call rock is a brutal assault/And as for that thing they call rap, Oy gevalt!
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” Included was an operatic excerpt from the song’s namesake. The vocal climbed with the organic force of a salmon swimming upstream. Whoa!

Amanda McBroom/Ann Hampton Callaway’s “In My Dreams” was commissioned for Dallas who had expressed feeling “the reassuring presence” of her late husband Gary: “But the dark is not as quiet as it seems/For you’re here tonight in my dreams.” It was lovely. The artist took us there.

The Leslie Bricusse/Anthony Newley “Pure Imagination” dipped, swirled, and gently soared like a lazy kite on the graceful breeze of Denny’s piano. The encore, the same songwriters’ “When You Gotta Go,” was deft and understated. Dallas included older, more eclectic material, which is always a treat. She, herself, is an original.

Alix Cohen

Alix Cohen’s writing began with poetry, segued into lyrics then took a commercial detour. She now authors pieces about culture/the arts, including reviews and features. A diehard proponent of cabaret, she’s also a theater aficionado, a voting member of Drama Desk, The Drama League and of The NY Press Club in addition to MAC. Currently, Alix writes for Cabaret Scenes, Theater Pizzazz and Woman Around Town. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine and Times Square Chronicles. Alix is the recipient of six New York Press Club Awards.