Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Lesley Hamilton Does Some
On Monday nights through February 18, The Plush Room, San Francisco's premiere night club, is presenting the musical monologue Blue Jelly, a one hour musical venture starring one of the Bay Area's best chanteuses Lesley Hamilton.
Blue Jelly is an adaptation by Gene Price of the novel by former Rolling Stone writer Debby Bull. The cabaret monologue is interwoven with 15 pop and cabaret standards from the pens of such great composers as Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Kurt Weill, Maury Yeston, Rodgers and Hart, and Stephen Schwartz. There are also songs by Bart Howard, Josh Rubins, William Roy and even Tom Waits. The show has a subtitle that seems more appropriate to the saga of our heroine: Love Lost and the Lessons of Canning, which is the basis for Debby Bull's story.
Dressed in a simple black outfit, Lesley comes onto the stage, where sits a cloth-covered table set with Mason jars of home made jelly. Lesley has just broken up with what must have been a first class jerk - and a cheap jerk, since for Valentine's Day she received sample perfume strips taken from magazines. She hates being alone as she sings Bart Howard's "Where Do You Think You're Going?"
Our gal finds solitude very difficult until she finds her mother's Canning Diary on the making of jelly, and somehow this helps her through the first crisis. She goes on an odyssey that includes a hiking trip to some Indian cliff dwellings, to various seminars that sound suspiciously like EST, and an unrewarding affair with a 10 year younger country western singer who travels Holiday Inns in the Southwest. Intertwined with this soliloquy are recipes for canning various jams and jellies. However, at the end it looks as if the woman will find happiness in her own home town.
Lesley, who is in fine voice, sings such standards as Cole Porter's "It's All Right With Me" and "Every Time We Say Goodbye," Kurt Weill and Ogden Nash's "That's Him" and Rodgers and Hart's "Nobody's Heart Belongs to Me." There were pieces that I had never heard before, such as several songs by Bart Howard and William Roy.
Lesley is excellent in the rendition of Maury Yeston's "Please Let's Not Even Say Hello," and she shows off her skills as an operatic voice. The singer not only has a bell clear voice, but she is great in the acting department as well. We usually see Ms Hamilton doing the brassy roles in 42nd Street Productions or at least an Ethel Merman type role. It was a pleasure to see her expand her range to sing romantic ballads, sad songs and comedy songs like "Remind Me" by the late Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields.
The dialogue is by Gene Price, who once worked on the New Yorker Magazine and has published fiction in national magazines. He has done a bang up job on the writing of the piece. There are many clever lines that bring humor to the piece. Cesar Cancino is first-rate as Lesley's musical director and pianist, and the direction by Jayne Wenger is right on the mark.
Blue Jelly will be playing the Plush Room, Hotel York, 940 Sutter Street, San Francisco on Monday February 10 and 17 at 8 pm. For reservations call 415-885-2800.