By Tom Alvarez, Indianapolis Performing Arts Examiner
October 1, 2012
Those fortunate enough to attend the $150 a head “Friends of the Cabaret” fundraiser for the Cabaret at the Columbia Club, Saturday, Sept. 29, experienced the voice and stage presence of quintessential Broadway star Susan Egan, who was featured in “The Belle of Broadway.” She was accompanied by her long-time pianist and music director, Stephen Cook.
Egan is best known for playing Sally Bowles in “Cabaret” longer than any actress in Broadway history. She also starred in the title role of “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” originated starring roles in “Triumph of Love” and “State Fair,” and received both Tony Award® and Drama Desk® nominations for Best Actress as Broadway’s original Belle in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” Egan also starred alongside Carol Burnett in Sondheim’s “Putting It Together” at the Mark Taper Forum, and she performed together with Tommy Tune in the national tour of “Bye Bye Birdie.”
During lengthy yet necessary introductory remarks, made tolerable mostly because she laced them with comical references delivered in her self-deprecating, mocking style, Cabaret managing & artistic director Shannon Forsell thanked sponsors and attendees for their support.
Then to underscore the Cabaret’s educational programs, such as masters classes for students taught by professionals who perform there, and its partnership with the Michael Feinstein Initiative which sponsors its Great American Songbook High School Vocal Competition, Forsell introduced Laney Wilson for a special performance.
Wilson, a third-place winner of the inaugural 2010 competition, sang “I’ve Got a Crush on You” by George and Ira Gershwin. He was accompanied by David Duncan on piano. Referred to as “Michael Buble’s cousin” by Forsell, the suave and handsome Wilson vocally bore a resemblance to Buble, but one can only hope that this talented young crooner will develop his own style as time goes by. Currently, Wilson sings with The Cool City Swing Band.
When Egan was finally introduced, she literally exploded onto the stage with her rendition of “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from “Funny Girl,” a more than appropriate song to showcase her vocals that packed a punch, an astounding range and a personality that was bubbling over with effervescence.
Egan then launched into a program, sans intermission, that essentially told the chronological story of her successful professional journey as a Broadway and Disney star, by way of songs she introduced with uproariously funny commentary.
Favorite moments from Egan’s act included “It’s a Good Thing He Can’t Read My Mind,” a song about a woman who hates opera, sushi and skiing, but doesn’t want her boyfriend to know; “Maybe This Time,” a song from “Cabaret” that was in the film and later inserted in the 1996 revival of the musical, directed by Sam Mendes, in which Egan starred; “Little Town” from “Beauty and the Beast,” in which she played Belle; and “Nina Doesn’t Care,” a song she wrote about her daughter who is not impressed that her mom is a Broadway star.
Claiming Judy Garland as her idol, Egan paid fitting tribute in a medley which included “You Made Me Love You,” “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart,” “The Trolley Song,” “The Man That Got Away” and “Over the Rainbow.”
Telling a story about how — if not for a twist of fate — she would have been cast as Elphaba instead of Idina Menzel in “Wicked,” Egan showed the audience what they missed with her jaw-dropping rendition of “Defying Gravity.”
For her encore, Egan sang “Momsense,” a song set to the “William Tell Overture” with lyrics, sung at a break-neck speed, consisting of words and phrases that moms have repeated to their children since time immemorial.
For tickets and information about upcoming 2012-2013 Cabaret at the Columbia Club performances, call (317) 275-1169 or visit www.thecabaret.org.
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