By Eric J. Grimm
Jennifer Sheehan shoots for the stratosphere in her new show Stardust: A Night in the Cosmos at 54 Below. Sheehan, a polished and enthusiastic performer, has strung together a varied constellation of tunes set among the stars, moon, and space in her uncontested bid for the title of “Carl Sagan of Cabaret.” It’s a calculated night of music that could stand to be looser, though musical director James Followell’s arrangements and Sheehan’s lovely voice make for a more than pleasant evening.
The set list is well paced with intriguing takes on well-known songs and a solid mix of up-tempo and slower tunes. Sheehan never feels less than comfortable in energetic numbers like Duke Ellington’s “Caravan,” which sees her dancing and smiling as she encourages the crowd to tap their toes, or the more anguished “Lost in the Stars” from the musical of the same name, in which she shows the strength and clarity of her voice as she projects for the universe. One of the highlights is a jazzy “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star” that might have fallen flat in other hands; it shows Sheehan’s commitment to Followell’s inspired arrangement.
Sheehan flirts with the kookiness of science fiction but her act is too measured to get there. A decidedly earthbound take on David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” feels like it should be bigger and stranger. Her appearance, with silver nail polish and a sequined dress that looks like perfectly raked moon dust, is so achingly close to camp that I hoped for something a little more unusual in her presentation. That said, her corny space jokes and trivia throughout at least give us a seemingly personal glimpse into the interests of a science nerd with serious pipes.
Stardust: A Night in the Cosmos is playing at 54 Below May 9th, May 20th. For tickets, visit http://54below.com/artist/jennifer-sheehan/.