By William Wolf
BARB JUNGR BRIGHTENS THE HOLIDAY SEASON
Unique Barb Jungr, once again demonstrating her originality, is gracing 59E59 Theaters during the holiday season (December 22-29, 2013). The title of her new show, “Dancing in the Dark,” perfectly conveys what she is up to this time. The “gift” from Britain to cabaret, has a weakness for songs with a dark edge, but the spin she puts on them provides uplift for her audiences because she makes them so entertaining with her amazing delivery.
For example, on opening night, the performance I saw, she jumped right in with Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows,” a number that talks of rich dominating the poor and couples happy except for the occasional cheating. Jungr gives her all with songs like that, and vigorously applies her individualistic imprint.
She also establishes rapport with her audience via anecdotes and off-hand comments, sometimes underscored with a skeptical glance or shrug. For example, she recalled her early days when she worked at a boutique hotel. Noting that young people tend to be fearless, she described walking across a park in the wee hours of the morning. Then she provided the zinger. It couldn’t have been safer, because everywhere there were policemen—with their trousers dropped around their knees.
It should be said immediately that Jungr has a terrific pianist to accompany her—Tracy Stark, who shows compatibility with Jungr’s one-of-a-kind styling. In song after song Jungr makes the delivery her own with what she does in the way of interpretation and the creative use of her voice. When she sings a number, it is very different from the way you may have heard it before.
Take “River,” written by William Hay and noted for the way Joni Mitchell has sung it. Jungr sailed into it on her own terms. She accomplished a similar feat singing “The Night Before,” known via the Beatles, but here a Jungr treat. She provided poignancy with a song that she wrote with Michael Parker, "Till My broken Heart Begins to Mend." It was also a special pleasure to hear her sing “Red Red Wine.”
Jungr, who looks appealing, encouraged audience members to sing along at one point, threatening that they wouldn’t be allowed out of the theater unless they did. For her encore she gave a very sweet and gentle bent to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” By then she had more than won over her audience. At Theater B, 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street. Phone: 212-279-4200. Reviewed December 23, 2013.