THE NEW YORK OBSERVOR
by April 23, 2006
Meanwhile, the Algonquin’s Oak Room is bathing the sultry Venus of a diva, Karen Akers, in a pink champagne spot through May 13. Songs by the sterling-silver team of John Kander and the late Fred Ebb are the focus, but don’t hope for “New York, New York” or the overworked hits from Cabaret and Chicago. Ms. Akers has sought more unjustly neglected songs from lesser-known scores like The Act, The Happy Time and Steel Pier to illustrate the variety, optimism, wistfulness, dazzle and dreams of the composers—and the singer herself. Lanky, elegant, cool in appearance but warmer in heartfelt emotion than I’ve ever heard her, this graceful gazelle with Jane Wyman bangs has obviously been wrongfully mislabeled “the ice sculpture” by mumpy critics in previous appearances. I am happy to say she has turned radiant, not melancholy, and displays a contagious sense of humor, not a stoic mantle of marble. Her burnished baritone is ideally suited to undervalued gems like “Isn’t This Better” (from Funny Lady) and “Sorry I Asked,” a ruminant piece of special material written for Liza Minnelli and never performed by anyone else—until now. (Even John Kander had forgotten it.) With wonderful support by pianist Don Rebic and Brian Glassman on bass, Karen Akers can ditch those suicidal old songs by Jacques Brel and Piaf. Discovering Kander and Ebb, she’s found a whole new audience and come home at last.