Still two sides

We are big fans of Bay Area Cabaret, an organization that puts on delightful cabaret shows a half dozen times a year in the elegant Venetian Room of the Fairmont Hotel.  They find excellent singers to put on a show for 75 to 90 minutes on a Sunday afternoon.  Singers like Leslie Uggams, Stacy Kent and, this week, Judy Collins.  People dress up, sip adult beverages and enjoy an older style of music in very upscale surroundings.

We were excited to see this particular show–it promised to be the highlight of the series.  Expectations sometimes fail, though, and that was the case Sunday.

Still gorgeous, Judy Collins in the Venetian Room.

Still gorgeous, Judy Collins in the Venetian Room.


There is no opening act.  Judy came out, and sang.  She hit many of the notes in the songs, just not the high ones.

She had a cold, it is true.  Several times she was forced to stop singing and start coughing.  Perhaps that is the reason, and I’m being unfair.  Perhaps sopranos need to retire earlier than altos, and she is 75.

Judy is working on a new show, featuring the music of Steven Sondheim.  I think many of his songs are in a higher range than she is comfortable with, and she is pushing herself beyond her limits.  When she sang “Somewhere over the rainbow”, she was spot on, and it was beautiful.   Her old standards, “Both Sides Now” and “Send in the Clowns”, were a delight.  The Sondheim pieces, such as “Being Alive”, are just in a higher range and were not working on Sunday.

High notes or not, she can still sell the song.

High notes or not, she can still sell the song.


Of course, Judy Collins is a thorough professional.  She still has the phrasing, the timing, the ability to sell a song.  Completely comfortable onstage, she owns the room and is the cynosure of all eyes. More than merely a singer, she is an entertainer to her bones, and provides an excellent show despite all.

Sunday’s show was sub-par, but I most certainly wish her well, and hope that getting over her cold solves the problems.  Bay Area Cabaret will still be high on our list of pleasant activities, and we go again in 3 weeks.


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