by Kathryn Kitt
Upon entering the Café Carlyle, it can be easy to imagine what a Bobby Short concert was like. What would a Broadway Diva with a huge fan base present? Café Carlyle is world-renown and has presented everyone from Richard Rodgers to Chita Rivera. It would never occur to me that a comedic author of a hit show on Bravo would captivate me so with her musings about the Upper East Side and vocal renditions of Hair Metal bands from the 1980’s. Stairway to Cabaret is as unconventional a concept for the Carlyle, but I was truly entertained. I do hope it is the start of something new.
I first discovered Jill Kargman from her TV show Odd Mom Out on the Bravo channel. A friend of mine steered me to watch it, for it pokes fun at the “Real Housewives of the Upper East Side” types and how she tries to navigate living amongst them. Her self-deprecating, real mom persona was very relatable to me, so when I found out she was scheduled to perform her act, I knew I had to catch it!
It is quite refreshing to sit in such a historic room and not have to behave oneself. Ms. Kargman conveyed her persona as a combination of Sarah Silverman and Chelsea Handler. Fresh off a previous run at the Williamstown Theater Festival, Stairway to Cabaret consists of Ms. Kargman, her talented pianist and musical director, Marco Paguia and staged with liveliness by Trip Cullman. Ms. Kargman turned the Carlyle on its head. From the moment she took the stage, opening her show with “Wanted Dead or Alive,” it was evident that there was fun to be had. She fulfilled every 40 something woman’s fantasy of just getting on a stage and letting it all hang out. Reflecting on her interactions with incompetent au pairs and outspoken makeup artists, she was able to interpolate songs like “Seventeen,” by the rock band Winger, into a scenario of her life story like underscoring.
Ms. Kargman has a pleasant voice with wonderful stage presence. Her anecdotes are quite animated and she never sang her songs condescendingly. One of the highlights for me was her description of the Whitesnake video “Here I Go Again,” which she performed. Reminiscing about the 80’s theme of immense hairspray and video vixens, it was certainly a trip down memory lane for this 80’s child! Her feigned outrage at learning about stripper poles through Motley Crue videos and other inappropriateness in her childhood was truly uproarious.
I am not expecting to ever see another show quite like this at the Carlyle, but I would welcome the chance. She certainly has a following and I hope this encourages her to produce a follow up with her talented creative team. From what I hear, the whole rest of the run is sold out, so maybe this is a sign.
Photos: David Andrako
Performances will take place Tuesday – Saturday at 8:45pm, January 17th-January 28th. Reservations made by phone at 212.744.1600 are $65 ($115 for premium seating, $50 for bar seating) Tuesday– Thursday; $85 ($135 for premium seating, $65 for bar seating) on Friday and Saturday. Reservations can also be made online via Ticketweb. Café Carlyle is located in The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel (35 East 76th Street, at Madison Avenue).