by Brian Scott Lipton
Blonde, beautiful and both possessed of stunning voices that soar to the heavens, Rebecca Luker and Sally Wilfert are almost a modern-day, grown-up version of the Doublemint Twins. And, indeed, there’s no denying these real-life besties will double anyone’s pleasure and anyone’s fun who is lucky enough to catch their brilliant new show, “All the Girls,” which debuted to a packed house of theatrical royalty at Feinstein’s/54 Below on September 7.
One of the most accomplished cabaret acts I’ve seen recently – due in no small part to the savvy direction of Annette Jolles and the brilliant musicianship of musical director/arranger Joseph Thalken – “All the Girls” cleverly pays tribute to the many facets of womanhood, yet never sounds preachy or pretentious.
For one thing, humor plays a surprisingly large part in the evening, from Wilfert’s delicious version of Susan Werner’s put-down of plastic surgery, “What Did You to Do Your Face?” to Luker’s hilarious take on Michael Heitzman and Ilene Reid’s “Not Funny,” a paean to the problems faced by sopranos unable to get laughs, to the pair’s razor-sharp rendition of Jeff Blumenkrantz’s hilarious “Moving Right Along,” in which a pair of single women put down every potential mate they find in a singles bar.
Of course, not everything on stage is fun and games. Luker inhabits every second of Blumenkrantz and Beth Blatt’s stunning story song, “Lovely Lies,” in which a Southern woman confesses a long-held secret to her mother; Wilfert brings passion and pathos to a beautifully conceived pairing to Peter Allen’s bittersweet “I Could Have Been A Sailor” and James Taylor’s heart-wrenching “Millworker;” and the stars complement each other beautifully on a medley of Patty Griffin’s cryptic “Be Careful” and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Dear Theodosia.”
Still, without question, the evening’s highlights are two incredibly intricate and complex medleys that these ladies pull off with seeming effortlessness. The first begins with sections of what are sometimes called “victim songs” (including “Mean to Me” and “My Man”) before seamlessly segueing into anthems of female empowerment such as “Enough is Enough,” “Let It Go” and “Single Ladies” and ending with a bang with David Zippel and Cy Coleman’s still-incisive “What You Don’t Know About Women.”
The second – a theater queen’s dream come true – finds Luker and Wilfert recreating parts of the some of the best songs ever created for two women, including “Nowadays,” “Every Day a Little Death,” “If Momma Was Married,” “Bosom Buddies” and “I Know Him So Well.” (It might have been particularly fitting if they had included a number from “Side Show” as one of that show’s original stars, the great Emily Skinner, was among the many luminaries in the audience.)
Indeed, I wished Rebecca Luker and Sally Wilfert would never leave us: I could have happily sat through a much longer evening of their easy camaraderie and vibrant vocalizing. Moreover, this superb show deserves a longer run at this club or another venue! It’s all that and a bag of chips.
Photos: Maryann Lopinto
“All the Girls: Rebecca Luker and Sally Wilfert” is at Feinstein’s/54 Below (254 West 54th Street) through Saturday, September 8. Visit www.54Below.com for tickets and information.