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Regional Reviews: San Francisco

Christine Ebersole In Marin

Also see Richard's review of Princess Ida

Tony award winning actress Christine Ebersole made a recent appearance at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center in San Rafael. As Ms. Ebersole said, the 90 minute cabaret act was the grain of her show at the Hollywood Roosevelt Cinegrill in Los Angeles in 1997. During the years, she has fined-tuned the act, and she recently played the Café Carlyle and Arci's Place in New York. We have seen this talented artist in several Broadway musicals, including the original On the 20th Century, Sondheim's Getting Away With Murder, 42nd Street and the touring company of Camelot opposite Richard Burton.

There is no doubt about it - Christine Ebersole is a gifted performer. She is the kind of person who would be the life of any party, and she commands the OJCC stage with her versatility. When she is relating parts of her past life, like her 14 years in Los Angeles, her speaking voice is strictly musical comedy. However, when she sings, it has an entirely different spin. As she said in an interview after the show, "people never know what I will be like when I am singing a song." She exhibits a wide vocal range and has a wealth of experience in showbiz in her background.

Ms. Ebersole started the evening with the Milton DeLugg novelty song "Shanghai," which was introduced several years ago by Doris Day. She sang with a jazzy upbeat, getting the show off to a roaring start. Next, she slowed things down by singing Milton Schwartz's "This Little Town is Paris." You get a little of Doris Day in both of these songs.

The artist talks about her years in Hollywood, where she worked in films and television. She met husband Bill Moloney in Los Angeles and now they live with three children, several cats, a dog and goldfish in Maplewood, New Jersey. She saluted her new home with Joseph Cosgriff's "I Like Jersey Best," in which she gives us some of "highlights" of that state. Later, she sang Jerome Kern's "Bill" from Show Boat where she displayed real emotional involvement. She further saluted Hollywood by singing "The Man That Got Away," from the the Judy Garland film A Star is Born, and "You'll Never Know," from the Alice Faye film Hello, Frisco, Hello. There was a little of Betty Hutton in her voice when she sang the clever mixed metaphor song "No Boubt Adout It."

There was a dark side to Christine's past life, shown when she sang about her first marriage which involved a Mexican divorce. The song, "The Animal in the Pit," is of sterner stuff. The songster also gave tribute to New York in the song "Do You Miss New York" by David Frishberg. She was wonderfully sardonic in that song. Her rendition of Maury Yeston's "New Words" was lovely, showing how she can draw you into the lyric of a father telling his young son new words. It is beautifully sung.

There were also two songs by Joni Mitchell. Christine said later in an interview that the song "Woodstock" was just put into the act recently. The singer and her pianist had discussed it while flying to California, and she decided to debut the song for the Marin County audience. The artist sings a very unusual arrangement of "My Ship" (which happens to be one of my most favorite songs, from Lady in the Dark). It was flavored with a limber jazz beat and she even cupped her hands over her mouth to simulate a trumpet. To be perfectly honest, I really did not like the arrangement.

Ms. Ebersole also performed a wicked take-off of Jeannette MacDonald by trilling and pouncing through "Beyond the Blue Horizon" from an old Paramount film. She ended her 90 minutes with a determined "I Happen to Like New York" from the master Cole Porter.

This was 90 minutes of pure entertainment with an artist who not only sings marvelously, but tells some very good stories. She is the ultimate pro on the stage.

Photo: Eddy Chambers

Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema

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