Musical Direction by Ross Patterson
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited
The only words that can come close to describing what Baby Jane Dexter is are “cabaret legend” and, of course, those who have seen her perform know that she is so much more. It seems almost senseless to find a new way to shower praise and applaud her recent performance at The Metropolitan Room. Critics, peers and music aficionados have already said everything there is to say many times over but once again Baby Jane refuses to concede to physical and emotional affliction and brings us closer in her latest show “It’s Personal” – and that it is. She draws us into her life, interpreting lyrics that reflect on her experience, emotional intelligence and positive outlook. She has accepted the responsibility of being honest and transforms that ability into the power that makes her audience shed a few tears, laugh with joy and somehow leave feeling reborn.
She begins her journey into your emotional core with “I’m in Love Again” (Cy Coleman, Peggy Lee, Bill Schliger) using broad gestures out into the room to verify it is her audience she loves. Using “Painted Lady” (Abbey Lincoln) as a portraiture of herself, continuing with the ironic “Bargain Day” (Billy Roy), she captures her audience and keeps them a prisoner in her heart. The patter begins with her exclamation that she has been referred to as a blues singer. She acknowledges this by leaping into “Birth of the Blues” (B.G. DeSylva, Lew Brown, Ray Henderson) and an incredible rendition of “House of the Rising Sun” (traditional English Ballad) that is intimate, exposing how close the lyric might be describing a reality. When she descends on “Orpheus” (Lance Horne) the sound is guttural and the emotion is raw, laced with verity as she proclaims “Give me the truth and I’ll take it.” On the lighter, fun side is the delightful “Experiment” (Cole Porter) which leads into “Everyone Is Gay” (Ian Axel, Chad Vaccarino).
In collaboration with Ross Patterson, Baby Jane Dexter’s musical director and accompanist for over twenty-four years, this show reaches a new level of excellence. Mr. Ross’s musical interludes are brilliant and exhilarating.
In closing, Baby Jane recalls the passing of her dear friend Julie Wilson and how this is the first show where she is not in the audience. What is remarkable is that Ms. Wilson is ever so present when we hear the lyrics to “For All We Know” (J. Fred Coots, Sam M. Lewis) prayerfully erupt from Ms. Dexter’s soul. She leaves us with the powerful “Everybody Hurts” (REM) which seems to be just a little more significant this time but overflowing with hope and gratitude. This cabaret icon insists on accepting everything life may deliver, embracing it and revealing what she has learned through her music. That is who she is!