Eden Casteel: Kahn Artist: Madeline and Me

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Eden Casteel

Kahn Artist: Madeline and Me

Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, November 21, 2023

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg

Eden Casteel

It’s almost always a pleasure when a cabaret show seems to be about one thing and then happily turns out to be about something else, something much deeper and more personal. Eden Casteel’s Kahn Artist: Madeline and Me at first appeared to be yet another tribute to a unique and legendary singer/actor. Although Kahn certainly loomed large in the program, the evening was far more about Casteel and the effect that Kahn had upon her career and life. Casteel’s discovery that a soprano could also be a comic character relieved her of the restrictions she felt were put upon her and allowed her to be her own person. There was no resemblance between the two entertainers physically or vocally, aside from an hysterical encore imitation of Kahn’s trademark song from Blazing Saddles, “I’m Tired” (Mel Brooks). Still,t a clear spiritual connection was established.

The excellent script, co-written with Rod Ferguson, told the compelling story of two performers. Kahn’s career was traced through a mix of the songs she performed; from a beef commercial she had recorded when she was slightly desperate, to “Never” (Cy Coleman/Betty Comden/Adolph Green from On the Twentieth Century), to the wonderful Kurt Weill parody “Das Chicago Song” (Michael Cohen/Tony Geiss from New Faces of 1968). Many anecdotes were woven into the show. The rich score that included such non-Kahn material as “I Have Dreamed” (Rodgers and Hammerstein) and “As Long as He Needs Me” (Lionel Bart) was arranged by Jim Rice and Bobby Peaco and was performed by pianist John Cook, who contributed fine vocal support on “Getting Married Today” (Stephen Sondheim) and on other songs. Certainly, there couldn’t have been a finer director for this tribute than another Broadway icon, Tony winner Faith Prince.

But it was Casteel who held the stage with her deft acting and her fine singing. She soared with “The Movie of My Life” (Susan Werner) and moved the audience with a mix of “Funny How the Love Gets in the Way” (Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich) and “Look at Me” (Jason Robert Brown). She commanded the stage with each story and each song and ended the main part of the show with a song from a non-Kahn Mel Brooks’ film, The Twelve Chairs, which contained the fine life advice “Hope for the Best (Expect the Worst).” It will be exciting to see what Casteel does in the future.

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."