By Andrew Poretz …
It’s impossible not to notice the performer Marnie Klar the moment she walks into any room. Ms. Klar looks like a high-fashion model (her bio unsurprisingly bears this out) with the high cheekbones of a cover girl. When this statuesque beauty opens her mouth, her dulcet tones complement the visage. For the purpose of cabaret, Ms. Klar’s strongest physical assets, however, are actually her huge, highly expressive “Joan Crawford” eyes that light up when she sings or talks, in turn lighting up the room. Her eyes effectively and consistently convey a wide emotional range, from subtle to heartbreaking.
Surprisingly, this is the eighth time Ms. Klar has performed this show, which debuted at Don’t Tell Mama in November 2022, yet had not been reviewed by Theater Pizzazz, nor by any other publication. This review happily corrects that oversight.
The star was accompanied by musical director Steven Ray Watkins, bassist Matt Scharfglass, and drummer Don Kelly. Ms. Klar wore a tailored pantsuit with a blouse that had the colors of a bird of paradise.
Ms. Klar was off to a strong start with the declarative “Touched by the Sun,” a song Ms. Simon wrote for Jackie Onassis, and was the title of Ms. Simon’s book about her friendship with Ms. Onassis. Ms. Klar has a very good voice, with power when she needs it. She does not in any way copy Carly Simon’s singing voice or style, but brings her own style to the material.
Every Carly Simon song in the set had an autobiographical element, and Ms. Klar effectively set them up with a combination of patter and dramatic enactments of snippets of Ms. Simon’s memoirs. She deftly switched between third and first person with a change of inflection or by sitting on a stool. After reciting facts of Ms. Simon’s privileged childhood – her father was the Simon of the Simon & Schuster publishing company, and her mother was once a switchboard operator there – she told her parents’ meet-cute story. “Hello, Big Man” memorialized in song. Her acting prowess is impressive, as she seems to fully inhabit Carly Simon in these brief segments. In the more emotional moments, her eyes glistened with tears, and she took the audience with her.
Mr. Watkins proved a double threat with backup singing and duets where needed, including on songs like “Mockingbird” (Inez and Charlie Foxx), with the pianist providing James Taylor’s part, “Right Thing to Do,” and more.
Ms. Klar has mined the extensive Carly Simon catalog to find gems to pull the narrative together, along with the hits that received the most airplay. It’s in these lesser-known pieces, such as “It’s Not Like Him,” “Boys in the Trees” and We Have No Secrets,” where the show reached many of its high points, if only because they seem fresher almost by definition. That said, Ms. Klar and the trio did an excellent job with even the most familiar material. She killed it on “Anticipation.” When she reached “You’re So Vain” late in the set (with Mr. Watkins supplying the Mick Jagger harmonies), she let loose, taking the mic off the stand for the first time and singing with powerful attitude and angry eyes.
Ms. Klar has excellent storytelling instincts, both in song and patter, and by bringing Carly Simon’s memior to life. With impeccable acting, crisp writing, great song choices, and superb direction by Tanya Moberly, the show feels closer to a one-woman, off-Broadway show than a mere cabaret tribute show. Ms. Klar’s excellent delivery and fine vocal skills are perfect for the material.
Marnie Klar Sings Carly Simon is not the performer’s first tribute show; she won a Bistro Award in 2019 for Marnie Klar Sings Bobbie Gentry. Ms. Klar’s latest show may bring more awards her way. An encore performance is scheduled for October 9 at Don’t Tell Mama.
Marnie Klar Sings Carly Simon took place on August 10 at Don’t Tell Mama, West 46th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenue (www.donttellmamanyc.com).
Photos: Jeff Harnar except where indicated