by Joe Regan Jr.
Every two years Jillian Laurain, the Bistro Award-winning, classically trained singer, actress and vocal coach, does a new cabaret act and it’s always very special. On Saturday, June 27, a dark, stormy, thunder-punctuated night, Laurain began a series of shows at the Metropolitan Room, An Evening With Jillian Laurain – A Trilogy. Sporting a new, short platinum hair style, Laurain did not disappoint the sold-out room. This first show was called “The Rhythms of My Life” and, as she said after the first two numbers, featured songs she wanted to sing about the many rhythms in her life which describe her personal growth.
Laurain was fortunate and wise to have hired five terrific musicians: Don Rebic on piano and keyboard; Sean Harkness on guitar; Tom Hubbard playing bass; Ed Oronowski on drums; and Emedin Rivera on percussion. The show was smoothly directed by Nikki Saed who has directed many international productions. Of course, in her excitement, Laurain often ad-libbed and went off-book, telling anecdotes about her life.
The set began with a exciting arrangement of “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You” which segued into “Something’s Coming” on which Laurain effortlessly glided into those clear ceiling-shattering high notes. She then began sweetly “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” with only Rebic, then sailed into a wild lyrical Latin beat, with her band pushing her into the stratosphere.
There was a pairing of two Streisand numbers but with great new arrangements from her previous show. First, “How Does The Wine Taste” which started out a cappella, then with only Hubbard, and phasing in the rest band and a belt that ended muted, as she began “Where Am I Going,” ultimately mingling the two. The audience erupted with raucous, lengthy applause.
Then she told a story about how as a teenager she was always falling in love with some new guy but wondered about a special blind date. This led naturally into “Will He Like Me” and the Dave Grusin/Marilyn and Alan Bergman “It Might Be You,” a song of great hope.
With great wish fulfillment she sang Ivan Lins “The Island” (great sound and lighting by Jean-Pierre Poirroux) but the band went wild when she suddenly turned into Yma Sumac, singing and scatting “Poinciana.” A brilliant choice.
Her other great musical pairing was “Once Upon A Summertime” (Legrand & Johnny Mercer) and “Paris Is A Lonely Town” (Arlen/Harburg), both sung sweetly, sadly, tenderly. It was an amazing torch song match.
Next, appropriately, she began with the bridge to “When The Sun Comes Out,” sang it slowly and sweetly then did a full all out rhythmic attack. And, of course, it goes without saying, her high notes soared over the band.
The most exciting number in the whole set was “Birdland” (Josef Zawinul/Jon Hendricks), which featured the entire band, and led to her acknowledging them individually once more. Throughout the act she modestly referred to herself as “the band singer” or “chick singer.” However, she was anything but, providing leadership to the orchestra in her superb arrangements.
There was a muted “Crazy World” near the end, but the best saved for the last, when she did a tour de force performance of “A Piece of Sky,” a holdover from the Streisand show. The crowd cheered and stood, but she left them wanting for more.
An Evening With Jillian Laurain – A Trilogy continues at the Metropolitan Room on September 19 with “The Broadway Stage,” and again on December 19 with “Seasons of Love.” Reservations are a must. Contact the Metropolitan Room at www.MetropolitanRoom.com. For additional information contact jillianlaurain.com