Cabaret review: Christine Ebersole displays versatile vocal range


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Christine Ebersole lit up the Cabaret at Theater Square Monday night with a set that showed off her remarkable range as a singer and her ability to connect with an audience. She began by promising that her show, "Age Before Beauty," would lead us on a path to eternal youth -- and if that wasn't enough to grab us, she revealed that her late father was a proud son of McKees Rocks.

Ms. Ebersole grew up in Winnetka, Ill., and said her father decided she would be an actress the moment she was born. He had it partly right, because as a cabaret or Broadway singer, she has few peers. She moves with ease through the American songbook, her vocal dexterity on display in a set that began with a playful version of "Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead." Before that, she arrived onstage while her four-piece band was in the midst of a jazzy session and shared her vocals as a fifth element to the instrumental jam.

Her range is Broadway sparkle to Hollywood glitter, Betty Boop to unwavering soprano, and her cabaret set plays out as a roller coaster of characters and emotions. She told the story of her family's double adoption -- within hours of her husband, artist Bill Moloney, returning from China with their daughter, Mae Mae, their son Aron joined them from Minnesota. That made three, with son Elijah. She expressed her joy by singing "If I Were a Bell" and wiped away tears when she was done.

There was a little politics thrown in, but with humor, when she sang her "frequent fliers serenade," the 1930s-era "You Forgot Your Gloves." She also recalled one of her two Tonys as best actress in a musical by channeling "Grey Gardens' " Edie Beale for the haunting "Another Winter in a Summer Town."

In the quest for eternal youth, we aren't all as lucky as the 60-year-old Ms. Ebersole, who has the presence of someone born to the stage (you were right, Dad) and a flexible voice that doesn't quit.

For the big finish of her 80-minute set, Ms. Ebersole channeled the late great cabaret chanteuse Eartha Kitt by purring, "If You Haven't Got Love." Before she left to two standing ovations, she reminded the audience of her regular gig on the TBS comedy "Sullivan & Son." It takes place in a Pittsburgh bar. "I play the town tramp. I hope I do Pittsburgh proud," she said with a wink and a smile.

The Trust Cabaret series has so far brought four of the biggest names -- Ms. Ebersole, Betty Buckley, Christine Andreas and Elaine Paige -- from the world's storied concert venues into the Pittsburgh Cultural District. Karen Akers (Broadway's "Grand Hotel" and "Nine") finishes up the first season on May 6.

music

Sharon Eberson: seberson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1960. First Published April 10, 2013 4:00 AM


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