By Tom Alvarez
Indianapolis Performing Arts Examiner
Indianapolis resident Paula Dione Ingram’s first stop on her quest to becoming a regular cabaret performer was the Cabaret at the Columbia Club, where she performed Saturday, Feb. 6 in “Dark Legacy: Bright Lights of Black Broadway.”
Ingram, an I.U. Jacobs School of Music graduate, performed a program consisting of songs, primarily, by African American composers. Represented were Scott Joplin, Clarence Williams, Eubie Blake and others. George Gershwin who wrote music about the black experience was also included. Ingram was accompanied by pianist Don Rebic, another Jacobs School of Music graduate.
The classically trained singer holds credits that include performances throughout Europe, including an appearance in London’s West End in the title role of Oscar Hammerstein’s “Carmen Jones.”
Possessing a vocal timbre reminiscent of that of Broadway star Audra McDonald, Ingram’s opera training was no more evident than in Act 1. Her set included songs that included “Summertime,” “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” and “Stormy Weather.”
Ingram’s training, however, proved to be a liability at times, especially when it prevented her from giving a relaxed delivery of the jazz-style songs she sang. And whether due to nerves or a lack of experience as a cabaret performer, Ingram’s banter with the audience was sometimes repetitive and awkward. Several times, early in her act, she asked the audience if they were “having a good time?” Though the supportive crowd responded positively, her inquiries made Ingram appear overly self conscious.
Act 2 was quite a different story. Returning after intermission, Ingram seemed more comfortable in her skin and definitely more charismatic. And from that point onward, her vocals and scripted chat improved. In fact Ingram seemed transformed and in her element, as she shined in “Love Will Find a Way,” “Lost in the Stars,” and “I Know Where I have Been.”
Most impressive of all was Ingram's sultry performance of “Dat Love (Habanera)” from “Carmen Jones” during which she demonstrated her dramatic and operatic talents as she wandered into the house and serenaded the crowd.
Ingram mentioned that she will soon make her New York cabaret debut at Feinstein’s/54 Below. Hopefully her Cabaret at the Columbia experience was a valuable learning experience. She deserves credit for presenting such an ambitious, meaningful program and conveying it with such passion. And if she can improve on her interaction with the audience and loosen her delivery, Ingram stands a good chance of making a name for herself on the professional cabaret circuit.
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