by: Paulanne Simmons
At the top of her show at The Duplex, singer Sharon McNight informs the audience that she remembers performing at the club when it was at still at 55 Grove. “I’ve been on both sides of the street,” she concludes with a knowing smile. The audience laughs. And so the tone was set for Sharon McNight Alive and Well at The Duplex, the first night in her “Month of Tuesdays” series.
Over her decades-long career, McNight has been friends with a host of talented songwriters, which means she has an interesting and varied repertoire that is not exactly standard cabaret fare. Many of the songs are on the wrong side of naughty, poking fun at poetry (Mary Liz McNamara’s “Haiku”), politics (Jack Yellen’s “Sophie Tucker for President in 1952,” which promises women “more enjoyable nights”) and penises (Alan Chapman’s “Como te gusta mi pinga”).
But if McNight can make you double up with laughter, she can also break your heart with “Lady Put The Light Out One More Time” or Janis Ian’s “I’m Still Standing Here” and “Jesse,” in a mash-up with a sweet German song.
Because “this is America,” McNight insists she can sing whatever she wants. Happily this means she can include a Hank Williams medley that features McNight yodeling in “I’m So Lonesome I Can Cry.”
She can also end the show by teaching the audience the lyrics to Nan O’Bryne’s “Your Sweet & Shiny Eyes,” so everyone can participate as McNight makes appropriate and suggestive gestures while singing, “Your sweet and shiny eyes/Are like the stars above Laredo/Like Meat and potatoes/To Me.”
Make no mistake. McNight is a consummate artist. With Ian Herman at the piano, she’s got a show that is every bit as musically correct as she is out of line. And you’ve got three more chances to see her stepping out.
Sharon McNight is at the Duplex for the next 3 Tuesdays at 9:30pm until Aug 14th
The Duplex, 61 Christopher Street, 212-255-5438.