By Sandi Durell
There’s a reason why some performers have been in the cabaret industry for a long time! It’s a staying power that has to do with passion, emotion and, like glue, a stick-tuitivness of mind and spirit.
For years, Vickie Phillips (MAC Nominee & Bistro Award Winner) has been a go-to for keeping the music of Aznavour, Brel and Weill in the forefront of cabaret. European roots are very essential to her.
And, so, a day after we gave Thanks on the traditional Thanksgiving Day, Ms. Phillips was plying her art at Don’t Tell Mama with her long-time friend and musical director Gerry Dieffenbach on piano, who also supplied some pretty nifty harmonies throughout the evening.
She’s always happy to include special songs written by friends like the unstoppable Dottie Burman (for whom a prestigious cabaret award was named after her death) that set the tone for an evening entitled Musically Inclined – “I’m So Glad You’re in My Life,” filled with sincerity and positive energy and “Jenny and Me” – a kind of grass is always greener story tinged with the realities of following one’s dream to find freedom.
From there she travelled the road with Leiber & Stoller’s “Feelin’ Too Good Today Blues” and Arthur Fried/Nacio Herb Brown’s tippy toe tappin’ “Singing in the Rain Medley.” Craig Carnellia’s “Old Movies” revisits all the icons of Hollywood . . . i.e., Bette to Bogart, Stanwyck to Hepburn, Fred & Ginger to Gary Cooper . . .it’s a plethora of famous names and an amazing feat remembering them all!
But the real intensity of the evening was a tribute to the great Charles Aznavour, who passed on October 1 of this year at the age of 94. The heart of deep emotional story songs was yet to come. . . and did, in “Sailor Boys”- a never published song (sung by Liza Minnelli) that Vickie had to sail continents, climb mountains and do an assortment of tricks to get the music and permission to sing. It’s about a young girl whose innocence is stolen, and so much more and worth the price of admission.
“Yesterday When I Was Young,” and the lift-me-up “Madeleine”(Brel), sung with abandon, were also included on the bill. Slipped into this magical section was an original, telling story written by Gerry Dieffenbach “The Friend Who Taught Me to Dance.”
What would the doyenne of cabaret, the sage, Ms. Marilyn Maye offer up? A well of knowledge and experience that seems to hold true when she says “at a certain age, it’s a good idea to lower the keys.” And that would be my only caveat in this show.
Ms. Phillips’ small, but enthusiastic, audience are timeless friends and fans who love their emotions tossed up, down and everywhere with barely a dry eye when Vickie Phillips returned to encore with her mantra . . . “If We Only Have Love.”
Photos: Maryann Lopinto