Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Sharon Mcnight Is Deliciously Witty
Also see Richard's review of Chicago
The refreshingly wonderful Sharon McNight returns to the Plush Room for a limited two week engagement with her new show called Ladies, Compose Yourselves!, featuring songs written by "ladies, women and a couple of broads," according to the artist. Ms. McNight is giving San Franciscans the first look at this new 90 minute musical revue which contains 17 songs by current women composers. Sharon has been wowing cabaret audiences for several decades now. She recently completed a successful run at the Lucille Lortel Theatre where she presented Songs to Offend Almost Everyone. She has also been appearing all over the country with her Sophie Tucker Songbook.
Ms. McNight opened August 6 to a sold-out audience, composed mostly of enthusiastic male fans. The cabaret artist showed what a trouper she is when she announced she was suffering from a severe case of a very bad head cold. She buffered herself with a liquid cold remedy and announced to the audience what the great Sophie Tucker said: "the only way I would not appear would be if I were dead."
Sharon's show starts with an overture of "ladies songs," such as "Lady Be Good," "The Lady in Red" and a snippet of "The Ladies Who Lunch." She appears onstage in a simple black outfit and goes into Marshall Barer's "Shall We Join the Ladies," a delicious song, after which she announces, "That is all you will hear by solo male composers."
Sharon explains she got the idea for this show when appearing recently at a benefit in Chicago. She was discussing cabaret acts with many of the artists who were doing songs by Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and other dead male composers. She thought the lady composers should be in the spotlight, especially living female composers. I must confess that I do not know most of the songs by such composers Karen Gottlieb, Pegge Sarlin, Judy Henske and Beckie Menzie. I do know the work of Amanda McBroom and Alberta Hunter (a show about her work recently finished at the San Jose Rep - Cookin' at the Cookery).
Ms. McKnight is a pure professional, and she is in charge of her material. She doesn't have a false note in her voice or a false bone in her body and for 90 minutes she mesmerizes the audience with such great songs as Dillie Kean's comic "Shattered Illusions," the wild "Mad Dog Killer" and "Tin Star" by Judy Henske. I love the Fran Landesman song "Small Day Tomorrow," a great parody of a person who usually says "I have a big day tomorrow" when leaving a party early. She brings down the house when singing in an Edith Piaf/Lillian Montevecchi fashion, Peggy Sarlin and Bill Burnett's "I Regret Everything."
Sharon breaks up the audience with the hilarious "elves" song called "A Woman's Story" by Beckie Menzie, a side-splitting tale about a women being raised by elves. The singer then segues into an uproarious song simply called "Bacon" by Mary Liz McNamara about defending the lives of pigs.
There is no doubt that Ms. McNight is not only great in the singing department but she is a terrific vocal actress, a master of parody and very much in tune with her audience. She does two encores to the shouting audience. Her rendition of Albert Hunter's blues number "Two Fisted, Double Jointed, Rough and Ready Man" is a knockout. She belts that song out with the best of powerhouse singers. Her last selection is a song she wrote called "Put A Nickel in the Jukebox and Bring Back Patti Page." Sharon was backed by Joan Edgar who provides a marvelous accompaniment on the piano.
Sharon McNight will be playing through Sunday August 16th at San Francisco's premiere nightclub, the Plush Room Hotel York, 940 Sutter Street. For reservations, call 415-885-2800 or visit www.plushroom.com.
Karrin Allyson will be performing there on August 19th through the 24.