NY Cabaret Music Review by Joe Regan Jr.
It’s a very rare thing to see a cabaret debut by a classically trained singer be so simple and dazzling as Jillian Louis’ debut at 54 Below on Aug. 13th. Louis’ act has been written, directed, and produced by Scott Siegel and they have had the great taste to utilize master musician and arranger Ian Herman to play the piano and do the arrangements. From the start, a slow but dramatic opening chorus of “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” which Louis sings standing stock still and yet radiating enjoyment, and then the most joyful version I have ever heard of the Streisand classic “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” even going for the last high note and holding it forever!
But what does Louis do to follow that? She sings a glorious but uncomplicated version of Marc Blitzstein’s “I Wish It So,” the best version I have heard since Monte Amundsen introduced it in “Juno.” I was present at the opening night of “Juno” and remember how superb that number was. Amundsen, who was married to co-star Tommy Rall at the time, later sang at New York City Opera in “Die Fledermaus,” had a major operatic career in Europe and married Cesare Siepi, remaining married to him until his death. Louis, who has been trained in Philadelphia and New York by some of the best classical coaches, sings that aria simply and heart-breakingly and goes effortlessly for the wonderful high note at the end. When, and if, Louis appears again, this selection is the great reason to see her extraordinary choices and astonishing talent!
Oh, there’s a lot of other clever choices in her autobiographical tale of coming to New York and suffering the open auditions (comparing them to being in the trenches in a World War), singing a stunning “I Talk to the Trees” when she’s singing in the Pacific Northwest and negotiating the several key changes in “Love Me Or Leave Me” without a pause. She also does a “Glocca Mora” which touches on every one of the brilliant words of those lyrics.
A great comic bit is when she tells us about an all woman revival of “Into the Woods.” She brings her sister, Alyse Alan Louis, on stage and the two of them tear into “Agony” as Cinderella’s Prince and Rapunzel’s Prince. It’s luminously sung by both of them without missing a beat and is another special highlight of the night.
There are other pleasures – Amanda Mac Broom’s “Errol Flynn” and a wonderful “Without a Song” which starts a capella and has a strong finish.
I am sure she will be reprising “Agony and the Ecstasy” again and I advise you not to miss it. Throughout the entire act there were Bravas again and again.