Jenny Brown: My Favorite Things

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Jenny Brown

My Favorite Things

Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, December 28, 2023

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg

Jenny Brown
Photo: Michael Lionstar

Jenny Brown, with her charming soprano and conversational delivery of lyrics, came to Don’t Tell Mama to tell her audience all about her favorite things, and she began with the title tune. Also on her list were certain songwriters, topics, and themes. It was the best kind of cabaret show—highly personal and filled with standards and some lovely surprises. Because the evening was directed by Lina Koutrakos, intelligence and class were in abundance, and the Brown’s immense personal charm sealed the deal, as they say.

Another major factor in the success of the evening was the musical arrangements by Christopher Marlowe, which included a wonderfully blended medley of songs by Burt Bacharach and Hal David songs that told a complete and sad story. But his work was also gentle and uplifting in the obligatory Sondheim spot with a lovely combination of “Take Me to the World” and “So Many People,” two of Sondheim’s lesser-known compositions. Throughout, Yasuhiko (“Yaz”) Fukuoka provided sensitive accompaniment at the piano; it was surprising that the two artists had never worked together before.

The choice of songs was also surprising; they included selections from various sources, which is always a good thing. A beautiful setting of a passage by St. Paul of Tarsus by composer John Rubinstein had an almost classical appeal. A witty song from a forgotten 1950s Broadway revue, “The Commuter Song” by Baldwin Bergersen and Phyllis McGinley was surprisingly relevant today without any revisions to the lyric. Another rarity was Claibe Richardson and Kenward Elmslie’s “Beauty Secrets,” an almost hypnotic exploration of the sexual desires of middle-aged women, here given full force by Brown. Her romantic side was fully celebrated in a touching version of the evergreen “The Folks Who Live on the Hill.” Such versatility is a lovely thing to discover in a cabaret performer, and it promises much to look forward to in her future shows.

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."