by Joe Regan Jr.
Sally Kellerman, whose last New York cabaret appearance was some years ago at Feinstein’s at the Regency and who was a staple at Reno Sweeney, came into New York last night to appear at 54 Below and promote her new CD “Sally.” The show was entitled “A Little Jazz, A Little Blues, A Little Rock and Roll” and with stellar musicians, Ed Martell on piano, Kevin McConnell on bass and bass guitar, and Jonathan Ball on drums, two of whom she had just met that afternoon, the show was a musical treat.
I happened to be one of the few people who saw “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” aka “Holly Golightly” both in Philadelphia and at the last notorious preview in New York which was to be Kellerman’s Broadway debut. Of course, she went to Hollywood and became famous in several Robert Altman and Blake Edwards films, her “Hot Lips” in MASH solidifying her place in cinema history. In an audience full of cabaret reviewers and handsome young men, Kellerman, who appeared in a long white shirt and tight faded blue jeans, had the audience in the palm of her hands all evening. Because she is a great actress, even when she sang familiar cabaret standards, her acting ability enhanced those standards to a new level of dramatic interpretation.
Her opening number was a rocking “Somebody Call the Cops” by Otis Greene, in which she wanted the cops to arrest her lover and keep him away from her! There were several Bacharach/David songs: “The Look of Love,” “Breaking Up is Hard To Do” all profited from her dramatic phrasing of familiar lyrics. “Walk On By” was skillfully mixed with Harry Nielson’s “Without You” to dramatic effect which earned bravos from the audience.
She sang an unfamiliar song “Snooky” about how this man she adored always called her up when she had other plans and she would have to abandon them to be that great lover! Another unfamiliar was the torch song “Say It Isn’t So” (not Irving Berlin), but one by Mervyn Warren, also about being deserted by her lover.
One of the big rock and roll songs “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu” was sung with great solos by the musicians.
She took another cabaret standard and, while sitting on the stool against the piano, gave incredible dimension to “Black Coffee.”
All of sudden, all the musicians left the stage and Ken Hirsch took over the piano. Kellerman talked about many great hits Hirsch and Paul Williams wrote and sang those that were unfamiliar but great. The first, “I Still Miss You,” a torch song, and the second “If I Could” was a song about what she wished she could tell her children. Kellerman and Hirsch got another standing ovation.
When the musicians returned to the stage, Kellerman and the boys rocked on a “Love Potion #9,” giving it all the sex from a female point of view! Then she changed pace and sang a mournful “Is That All There Is,” getting the audience to sing along on the last chorus! More Bravos!
Kellerman, spotting the young men around her stage, gave a wonderful interpretation of Francesca Blumenthal’s “Lies of Handsome Men.” A standing ovation! She had to return to the stage, and after the thank you’s, she led the audience in “The Glory of Love,” with everyone singing.
Sally Kellerman’s voice has not diminished with years and she is in great physical shape.
She will be appearing Saturday night January 24 at the Rrazz Room in New Hope, Pennsylvania. Tell all your friends who weekend in the neighborhood not to miss her! And I hope she returns to 54 Below soon!