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Akers Sings Porter - Anything Goes
Artists Series Concerts of Sarasota

Also see Bill's review of Young Frankenstein


Karen Akers
Filling in for an ailing Avery Sommers, Karen Akers, one of our grande dames of the cabaret stage, recently presented her salute to Cole Porter, Anything Goes. Stepping onto the stage of the Historic Asolo Theater in a slinky black evening dress, dripping with pearls, Ms. Akers was completely the glamorous chanteuse.

She opened with the verse of "Riding High," switching to "I'm Throwing a Ball Tonight," a less well known song. It made for an interesting opening, forcing the audience to sit up and pay close attention. Also offered in the first act were "Come to the Supermarket (in Old Peking)," "Begin the Beguine," as an example of Porter's love of this seductive rhythm (although I wonder if "Down in the Depths (on the Ninetieth Floor)" might not have suited her better, propulsive rhythmic songs are not her forte), and a wonderful "Always True to You in My Fashion." Peggy Lee made a well known recording of this song and wrongly put the accent on the word "darling" when Porter wrote it and wanted it on "you." Other singers have taken a cue from this but Ms. Akers sang it as the composer wanted it. The act closed with "Let's Do It," using verses from both the original and Nöel Coward versions. Porter stuck with animal references such as "Cold Cape Cod clams do it" while his dear friend Coward tossed in multiple references to current people. It was a great way to send the audience out to intermission.

The second act was blanketed by songs from Nymph Errant "The Physician" and "Experiment," although I doubt anyone but me noticed it. Also featured was "Where Have You Been," a torchy song that Ms. Akers found with the assistance of her friend Michael (Feinstein?) which showed off her interpretive skills. An important piece of act two was a multi-song tribute to Paris, the City of Light that included "I Love Paris," "You Don't Know Paree" and "Alez-Vous-En." Ms. Akers lived in Paris for five-plus years so her love equaled Cole Porter's; he is often referred to as a Francophile and resided there for long periods as well.

I regret to report that Ms. Akers was not at her very best on the night I saw her, going up on lyrics multiple times, although this is not hard to do on Porter's laundry list songs. I personally would not ever attempt "The Physician" without a lyric sheet to cheat from. There was also a false start on the arrangement of "Don't Fence Me In." I will hazard a guess that she was simply not as rested as she would have liked to have been.

Ms. Akers was ably supported by Don Rebic at the piano and feeding her lyrics from time to time. He joined in on vocals for the encore, "True Love." Eric Michael Gillett is credited as director for this presentation. He is one of the busiest cabaret directors working today, but I have some issues with the song selection. Several did not seem to play to the performer's stylistic strengths, while Porter standards, which would fit Karen Akers' European demeanor, such as "What Is This Thing Called Love?" or "Love for Sale," were nowhere in evidence. I must mention a wonderful rendition of "I Get a Kick Out of You" in the first act that showed Ms. Akers' interpretive genius. Even at less than her very best, it's always a great opportunity to experience one of our greatest cabaret artists.

Akers Sings Porter - Anything Goes presented November 2 and 3, 2013, by Artists Series Concerts of Sarasota, at The Historic Asolo Theater, John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida. Box Office 941 306-1201. For more information, please visit www.artistseries.net.

--William S. Oser



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