Lena Hall at The Cafe Carlyle - New York City Article
The Café Carlyle
35 E 76th Street, (212) 744-1600
Through Saturday March 17
Lena Hall, who won the Tony award for Hedwig and the Angry Inch in 2014, made her Carlyle debut the following year, in a show (and subsequent album, Sin & Salvation: Live At the Carlyle) that proved the compatibility of the more extreme edge of Broadway belting with the hard edge of rock-and-roll belting. (She made her point, yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had somehow stumbled into the Rockwood Music Hall or the Mercury Lounge by mistake. Was this the Upper East Side or the Lower?) Her current show has the more commendable honor of being the first at the Carlyle to mix familiar show tunes with the likes of Mozart (“Der Holle Rache,” aka “Queen of the Night”) and Gilbert & Sullivan (“Little Buttercup”). Even more admirably, the new offering is a lot more personal and spotlights many more aspects of Miss Hall’s music and personality, most agreeably what turns out to be a Wicked (in multiple uses of the word) sense of humor.
The narrative arch of the show is her life and career told through a series of audition anecdotes, starting as a nine year old girl singing H.M.S. Pinafore. (To paraphrase Nora Ephron, a good subtitle might be, “Love, Loss, and What I Sang.”) Ms. Hall, who is also currently releasing a series of five-song EPs delving into various “obsessions” (Obsessed: Elton John, Obsessed: Peter Gabriel, and Obsessed: Hedwig, her own personal take on that increasingly iconic score) is consistently surprising. Along the way, she becomes perhaps the first singer ever to force me to appreciate the more lyrical side of Andrew Lloyd Webber (“Think of Me” from Phantom, although I confess to having been warmed up to Sir Andrew by Adam Gopnik’s marvelous recent piece in The New Yorker). No less remarkably, she extracts hitherto unknown comic content from Die Zauberflöte - her on-stage confession to the contrary, she sings it much more entertainingly than Florence Foster Jenkins. She proves that belting isn’t just about volume, power, and bombast, but it can be warm and intimate as well - even though I might have previously thought that was a contradiction in terms.
photo: David Andrako
Author: Will Friedwald
Will Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, VANITY FAIR and PLAYBOY magazine and reviews current shows for THE CITIVIEW NEW YORK. He also is the author of nine books, including the award-winning A BIOGRAPHICAL GUIDE TO THE GREAT JAZZ AND POP SINGERS, SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU, STARDUST MELODIES, TONY BENNETT: THE GOOD LIFE, LOONEY TUNES & MERRIE MELODIES, and JAZZ SINGING. He has written over 600 liner notes for compact discs, received ten Grammy nominations, and appears frequently on television and other documentaries. He is also a consultant and curator for Apple Music.
SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU - NEW REVISED EDITION (Chicago Review Press, May 2018)