Carolyn Hennesy

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Carolyn Hennesy

The Gardenia, West Hollywood, CA, June 6, 2024

Reviewed by Les Traub

Carolyn Hennesy

As she walked down The Gardenia’s center aisle on her way to the mic, Carolyn Hennesy swung her shoulders and stiffened her back in a display of attitude that set the scene for her first song, “It’s Not About Me” (Matthew Sklar/Chad Beguelin). She played it to the hilt and left no doubt as to who was in charge. In an amusing move when the lyrics referred to “dance breaks,” Hennessy subtly did a dance break with slight movements using everything except her feet. She followed with a specialty number written for Nancy Wilson by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen called “Don’t Talk, Just Sing” that featured the typical Cahn humor (“You’re no Bob Hope, dear’ You’re not a dope, dear; Don’t talk, just sing.”) Fortunately, Hennessy can talk and sing extremely well. She engaged easily with the audience and exhibited great stage presence.

After having some fun with “All In Fun” (Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein II) from Very Warm For May, she moved into more intimate material with a pair of songs about loneliness and loss, “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” (Tommy Wolf/Fran Landesman) and “Black Coffee” (Sonny Burke/Paul Francis Webster). After effectively delivering the humor in her opening numbers, she moved easily into the heartache of the ballads and showcased her pure, beautiful voice as she dove into the emotional depths of the songs. More standards followed, including a stunning performance of “As Long as I Live” (Harold Arlen/Ted Koehler). Her vocal on it was a smooth roller coaster-ride through the wide range of the song.

Hennesy confessed to stealing material from the late Claiborne Cary, whom she discovered through someone’s recommendation. Many have sung “Something Cool” (Billy Barnes), but few truly inhabit it. Cary certainly made it her own, and Hennesy did as well. Another song Cary frequently performed, “I’m Too Old to Die Young” (Murray Grand), was effectively delivered by Hennessy.

Hennesy wound up a lovely evening with “Lovely Day” (Skip Scarborough/Bill Withers). Her show was well-paced and over too soon. The arrangements and accompaniment were provided by her able music director Mitch Kaplan. A veteran film and television actress (and niece of Barbara Rush), Hennesy came off as a cabaret veteran even though her Gardenia shows marked her cabaret debut.

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. .

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