By Sandi Durell
Tony Award Winner Laura Benanti must have had quite a nightmare dreaming that all sopranos would one day be shipped out and banished to an island! Well, who knows, maybe they will . . . but she will be left behind to weave her magical soprano web on audiences now awaiting her at Café Carlyle. She is the perfect representative of the group as she plies her warm, delicious purring well trained voice along with her quick-witted humor in this debut performance.
Opening numbers include songs from the recent Broadway revival She Loves Me (where she was nominated for her role as Amalia) like that yummy “Vanilla Ice Cream,” giving a running storyline of humorous anecdotes about the show. She’s a relaxed charmer who, in the short course of 80 minutes unveils her life and secrets growing up in New Jersey obsessed with musical theater and not at all popular. What kid who loves Rosemary Clooney in first grade would be!
A fan of Joni Mitchell, she gives “Both Sides Now” a beautiful spin and sings lovingly to hubby Patrick Brown remembering their wedding dance “Love Is Here To Stay.”
Benanti starred opposite Patti LuPone in Gypsy and gave an earful of backstory that wound up with double vodkas. Don’t want to give too much away here! She and Patti starred opposite each other again in Woman on the Verge… Benanti singing the ever wild “Lovesick” – poor thing cracking her pelvis while swinging in a harness above the stage while Patti gave another interpretation of what she broke. Pure laugh out loud funny.
The five month pregnant Benanti shared her favorite songs in a medley that includes “All the Single Ladies/Old Man River/RESPECT/Proud Mary” (and others) in her inimitable kooky funky fun style, movin’ and groovin’ and you just know that little baby girl is gonna come out dancing! No surprise, the uber talented Benanti also picks up and plays a guitar, beats a drum and, if given more time, would probably be playing the piano and bass!
Among the many stories, a highlight is the one about she and Patrick going to City Hall for a Marriage License – but forgetting she needed to bring her divorce papers . . . well, just another laugh a minute reality check.
The evening ended all too soon as this brilliant performer, well suited to the intimacy at the Café Carlyle, recreated her first role on Broadway, at age 18, when she went on as Rebecca Luker’s understudy in “The Sound of Music” to sing the title song (replete with backstory), and left the audience close to tears encoring “Quiet Thing” – acapella, no mic.
Her friend and top notch musical director/pianist Todd Almond, together with Brian Ellingson on bass, completed the package to a memorable evening – a not to be missed debut. Also front and center was Alan Cumming thoroughly enjoying the show.
Laura Benanti appears thru October 8 at Café Carlyle, 35 East 76 Street, NYC. Tickets: www.Ticketweb.com
Photos: Brian Andrako