Thursday, August 6, 2009

CABARET review - Kara Stephens @ Sterling's Upstairs @ Vitello's

Kara Stephens made her cabaret debut From the Soul Sunday, August 9 at 7pm at Sterling's Upstairs @ Vitello's. The wholesome blonde has a lovely, versatile instrument that she used to great effect in the one-hour set, which included multiple guest stars. In fact, there were so many guests she might have appropriately entitled the evening Kara & Friends. She performed solo on only 5 of the 13 numbers. It became quite a variety show. Nothing negative implied as the group did not lack talent - there was an abundance of it. However... Miss Stephens has a strong aura and is gifted enough to go it alone.

Highlights of the set included the wonderful "Alto's Lament" that describes the agony a chorus singer, who is fully capable of carrying the melody, must go through when she is consistently cast to sing in the lower range. Backup singers, especially, appreciate this complaint. Stephens soared on Scott Allan's gorgeously poignant "Kiss the Air", with musical director Steve Lang's jazzy "Somebody Else" that he composed for character Lois Lane to sing on TV's Smallville, on the humorous "His Name" that tells of meeting the perfect man, but not being able to remember whether he was called Charlie or Drew and with her encore the soulful "Misery": quite a variety of song stylings that demonstrated Stephens' remarkable range as a vocalist.

Guest Shaun Samaro performed "Here's Where I Stand" and joined Stephens for "The Journey". Petite Bailey Quist did a rollicking "Gimme, Gimme" from Thoroughly Modern Millie and dueted with Kara on another standout Scott Allan tune "I'm a Star". Stephanie Wood and Dianne Baker engaged us with "For Good" from Wicked, and Nicole Barnhart joined Stephens for an evocative rendition of the mesmerizing "Flight".

The finale was one of my favorite numbers from Kander and Ebb's Chicago: "Cell Block Tango" that reunited Stephens with Quist, Barnhart, Wood and Baker. This is a delightfully dark justification of each murderess's crime against her man and proved to be a shining moment for the gals, as they wowed the packed audience.

This was a fun evening of cabaret for Kara Stephens' first time out. The next time she should go solo, for she has the chops to carry a show all by herself. She's a fine vocalist with great promise.


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