Lou’s Views: Hopelessly devoted to divas

Posted by admin on July 2, 2012

By Lou Harry, Indianapolis Business Journal

Look back about 18 months and ahead another 12 and you’ll find a who’s who of Broadway and cabaret stars gracing Indy-area stages, from Bernadette Peters and Barbara Cook to Liz Callaway and Liza Minelli. Patti LuPone has been here and so has Sutton Foster (OK, in Muncie, but close enough).

And there’s plenty more on the way, courtesy of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Cabaret at the Columbia Club, the Center for the Performing Arts, Clowes Memorial Hall and more.

This makes me, for one, a happy man.

Usually, these unconnected appearances are spaced out a bit. But over the June 22-25 weekend, there was a harmonic convergence of sorts when two of the most popular acts on the sing-that-show-tune-in-front-of-an-orchestra circuit, Linda Eder and Idina Menzel, both played to enthusiastic fans, the former at the Cabaret at the Columbia Club, the latter at Clowes.

The Eder phenomenon has always stumped me. The former “Star Search” champ ventured onto Broadway in the musical “Jekyll & Hyde” but since then has focused primarily on albums, concerts and PBS specials. I have a few of her discs in my collection but they haven’t made frequent rotation. I always felt a cold proficiency about her—pristine vocal quality always seemed to trump passionate connection to the material.

That impression wasn’t changed after seeing her on stage at the Cabaret. Backed by a first-class trio, Eder tackled a set of songs whose only connectivity seemed to be that they showed off her phenomenal vocal control. Unlike many cabaret singers, Eder doesn’t act her songs; she delivers them polished and, at least on the surface, flawlessly. There just doesn’t seem to be anything under the surface.

For some generic tunes (such as “Someone Like You” from “Jekyll & Hyde”), that doesn’t matter so much. But if you are going to cover songs best known for a version infused with personality—Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” for instance, or Patsy Cline’s “Crazy”—the impression given off isn’t superstar, it’s best wedding singer ever.

Eder ended her set with “Over the Rainbow.” Idina Menzel began hers with the same song.

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