It's A Good Day: A Tribute To Miss Peggy Lee
Reprising her Peggy Lee show, A
Peggy Lee, Stacy Sullivan has been packing them in at the
Metropolitan Room with her run in what has,arguably, become the show of the
year. And, with good reason. The show has legs and will be as fresh Tribute
To Miss ten years from now as it is today.
It's that good. It's one of those rare cabaret shows that has staying power.
Naturally, this is mainly due to its subject - Peggy Lee who remains one of the
most influential jazz/pop stylists of the last 100 years. That asunder, there's
Stacy Sullivan, who, after a sabbatical, has returned full circle to the
Manhattan cabaret scene and is well on her way to the kind of recognition that
will keep her before the cabaret public for a long time.She makes it all happen
and is worthy of the many kudos she's received over the last year.
At the top of her set, Ms. Sullivan notes; “Peggy Lee had a big voice, but she chose to sing softly.” The original “less is more gal,” Miss Lee learned early on that, “... if I sing softly, they will listen - to the words.” That sounds like Cabaret 101. It is.
In this celebrated showcase of Lee's songs, Sullivan wisely doesn't try to emulate Lee's inimmatible sound or her penetrating, yet subtle, sexiness. Rather, she lovingly remains true to herself and swings the program with incandescent arrangements by the brilliant jazz pianist Jon Weber. His jazz-tinged charts and keyboard riffs cannot be overstated enough. And, those musical designs play a huge role in the success of this show with deft assists from bassist Steve Doyle. It all makes for the type of show where stars are born - in another era. And that's quite a compliment these days. In todays schizo music world, this show will likely make waves in the cabaret arena alone. And for that, the genre must be grateful.
Vocally, with her expressive, soft soprano (used sparingly) in top form, Sullivan's presentation of bits and pieces of this innovative blues artist reveals that Peggy Lee's life was, at times, as much theater as it was music.A lean but effective narrative frames this ethereal evening as Sullivan swings her audience down a musical memory lane. She does this and manages to eschew the drama that her mentor faced privately with health and personal problems throughout her career.
This journey begins with an inviting, gently seductive mix of enchanted melodies starting with Lee's I Don't Know Enough About You (written with Dave Barbour to whom she was married for several years) which segues into a medley of I Got Rhythm ( written by the Gershwin's) into My Romance (Rodgers-Hart) and a sophisticated One Kiss (Romberg-Hammerstein.) Sprinkled with brief anecdotes, it is all inviting and flows without effort. There's a lesson to be learned here as so many cabaret singers drag out their patter ad infinitim in tribute shows. The emphasis here is on terrific songs and the lady being honored not expansive annotations.
As previously noted, while Sullivan never imitates Peggy Lee's uniqueness, Lee reverberated throughout the room. In a show filled with so many musical highlights, Sullivan wisely keeps it tight and pays homage to the lady who left such a respectable legacy through her singing and songwriting. However, at times, Sullivan did echo Miss Lee in her days at Mister Kelly's in Chicago or Basin Street East in New York. This was due, in part, to her intelligence, talent, and that epic backup team of Weber and Doyle (on her thrilling new studio CD on LML Music of songs from the show, Bucky Pizzarelli sits in adding just the right touch.)
It was all a special occasion that Stacy Sullivan beautifully created with her team. And, it wasn't just the terrific singing. She entertained as well as recalled these stalwart songs which Lee used to achieve her star status. Lee was always mindful of recent trends, new composers and her own expanding catalog. She adjusted as well as crooners could in those days when musical tastes changed the face of American pop songs and the mores that took over the music business. Mostly, Lee was cognizant of the meaning of lyrics. And, like Lee, Sullivan conveyed all of that without being redundant or preachy. Perhaps the thing she shares mostly like Lee, in all departments, Sullivan is a consummate, intimate singer meticulous and confident. And, it was all there in this special show. In a world where girl singers are almost a thing of the past, replaced by loud belters who sound like they're auditioning for “Rent,” Stacy Sullivan paid respectful homage to the artistry of Peggy Lee. In doing so, she brought a new spin to classic old favorites. More importantly, she infused those songs with the same warm sensitivity with a wriy touch of humor that contributed to Lee's legend. A riveting reading of Angels On Your Pillow (Lee/Horner) fused with a teaser of Fever (Cooley-Blackwell) caps this perfect show by a lady who is a welcome entity in a genre that is too often mundane. Brava Stacy!