For the better part of four decades, acclaimed cabaret chanteuse Vickie Phillips has dazzled audiences, most often with theme shows dedicated to such artist-composers as Jacques Brel, Kurt Weill, Charles Aznavour and Eric Blau, as well as the songs of both her longtime director Bob Ost and musical director Gerry Dieffenbach, and makes the most of her theatrically-sopranic tones while effortlessly communicating the meaning of lyric. It was for this reason that her four-person revue, American Cabaret, European Roots, received a MAC Award nomination in the early ’90s. Which it why it was equally a complete surprise when, in mid-March, she brought a brand-new show to Don’t Tell Mama, which possessed a theme but didn’t concentrate solely on the opus of one sole songwriter. Entitled Songs of Life, Love, and Other Moments, the show hopes for a triumphant new performance at the Duplex on the evening of Saturday, June 18th, and while those already members of her cult-like fan base are certain to be nothing less than delighted to the hilt, new devotees of cabaret will want to attend strictly for the purpose of education in how to really pull out all the stops on an intimate stage.
Brel’s music and Blau’s lyrics are, as always, a familiar and vibrant part of the proceedings, with “Madeleine,” “Marieke” and “Carousel.” The team of Mike Stoller and Jerry Lieber are also represented herein with both “Humphrey Bogart” and “Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots,” originally a ’50s pop hit in Europe for Edith Piaf as “L’Homme a la Moto.” Ost’s work is here with “A Special Place,” and there’s Dieffenbach’s beautiful ballad, “He Taught Me to Dance,” plus “A Song is Like a Friend,” which is a gorgeous composition between both gentlemen. But equally impressive are “Sho’ Biz” by Dennis Tracy, Craig Carnelia’s “Old Movies,” and a coupling of Neil Diamond’s “Songs of Life” with “Celebrate” by Steve Lawrence. Phillips also shows her wares as a songwriter herself, with “Love and Illusion,” and the lovely “Time” as an encore, after literally slaughtering the audience with Sheldon Harnick’s “In My Own Lifetime” from The Rothschilds.
Vickie Phillips once again proves with this show that some artists have got the stuff but good, and never fail in their ability to bring it with abundance. A few pundits might argue that after so many years, such an artist would be considered old hat, but she’s an eternally-glittering diamond in cabaret’s most gilded chapeau. One couldn’t be better served than by going to the Duplex to catch the show’s return.