On Friday October 26 Broadway singer/actress Eileen Barnett brought her cabaret show Eileen Barnett: A Celebration of Songs to the Colony Theatre for one performance only.
Proving that class is indeed a rare commodity these days, this lady, who co-starred on Broadway with Sergio Franchi in Nine, presented a marvelously varied bill of fare which highlighted songs from Amanda McBroom, Randy Newman, Stephen Sondheim, Kurt Weill, Jacques Brel and by the evening's musical director, renowned composer Michele Brourman - by no means your typical evening of predictable songs. Apart from having an exquisite soprano voice, Barnett is down-to-earth, warm and very funny. She used her infectious sense of humor to relay stories about her career - she always wanted to be a chirpy soprano like Shirley Jones or Julie Andrews, but learned how to play character instead from her many experiences essaying the esoteric music of Weill and Brel. She also touched upon dating before meeting her husband of over 20 years, actor Bruce French - "I kissed a lot of frogs!" - settling down in the San Fernando Valley instead of Bel Air, having 5 dogs that she rescued from the pound, "They saved me!", seeing the world via her father's travels as a documentary film maker "The World Through Your Eyes" and teaching her music students about how to stay positive and keep one's hopes and dreams with Bill Evans' "You Must Believe in Spring".
Other special highlights included: Arthur Schwartz' and Howard Dietz' haunting "I See Your Face Before Me" made famous by Nat King Cole, a riveting combo of "I Can't Help Falling in Love" with the sultry "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes", the amusingly outspoken "Oh, Martha, You Wear Me Out!" about the 'so perfect' Martha Stewart, Newman's "She's a Real Emotional Girl", "No One Has Ever Loved Me the Way You Do" by Sondheim coupled with Michele Brourman's "Hold Out for the Real Thing", Brel's dramatically rousing "Ay, Marieke, Marieke, The Flanders Sun..." and as encore the lilting "You're Just in Love". Kirsten Chandler directed the 70-minute set, nicely allowing Barnett the freedom to sit, stand or move around as the spirit moved her.
The consummate Barnett certainly proved her versatility in song, which I've always believed is the sign of a very fine actress. She can lift her lovely soprano to "I go to the hills..." but also deliver the poignant undercurrent of "My Husband Makes Movies" from Nine. This is a classy cabaret act that works at its very best in the quiet surroundings of the theatre.
Barnett has recorded two CDs: Eileen Barnett Live at the Cinegrill and for children, her award winning Broadway with a Beat, which you may purchase at www.eileenbarnett.com.