Christine Ebersole at Cafe Carlyle @ Cafe Carlyle, New York

directed by
Scott Wittman

The Caf Carlyle is one of the few venues in New York that still require men to wear jackets.

It’s one of those kind of places, so you know from the start that it is going to be that kind of a night.

It’s an intimate room with a capacity of just under 100. Marcel Vertes’ murals grace the walls and the whole place speaks of a lost world of elegance.

To enter the venue is to step back in time to the night clubs of the 30s and 40s, a world that exist for us now only on film and may, in truth, only ever have existed on film.

The Carlyle is the setting for a two week residency by Christine Ebersole, the Tony Award winning star of Grey Gardens who is slated to star in the upcoming Michael Blakemore-directed revival of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit on Broadway.

Backed by a piano player (musical director John Oddo), drummer and a talented gentleman who at different times plays the saxophone, the flute and the clarinet, the charismatic Ebersole takes the audience on an engaging trip through a selection of numbers from the 1930s and 1940s. Indeed this new cabaret set, directed by Scott Wittman, is entirely made up of songs from the early half of the 20th century, some familiar, some obscure. This choice of music, originally designed to lift the spirits of depression era and wartime America, works just as well today.

Her between-song patter includes stories of her family life in Hollywood, California, and Maplewood, New Jersey (“What a difference a leaf makes!”) This, plus her easy manner, goes some way to creating a sense of familiarity between audience and performer. She does an excellent job of playing to the room and doesn’t feel the need to constantly prove that she can belt out a song she sings as if the place were filled with old friends.

At the end of the set, Ebersole sings a tribute to the late Eartha Kitt, who also often played the Carlyle and who opened the space after its 2007 renovation. Ebersole sings Marvelous in the sultry, understated style of Kitt and, in doing so, finishes the evening on a pitch-perfect note. In the end, the room did feel full of friends, both old and new.

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