The cabaret stage has a long tradition of welcoming performers who are returning to their performance life after having successful careers in other professions, and/or raising children. These “debut“ shows often feature singers “of a certain age“ and are generally of note for one particular reason or another. More rare however is a debut show so elegant and captivating that it leaves the audience wanting to see it again immediately. Such is the show presented by Linda Kahn at the Triad on November 12, 2021.
Kahn’s show was a sophisticated evening highlighting not only her gossamer voice, but also the authentic heart of a true storyteller. Couple that with the ever-elegant direction of Jeff Harnar, and the understated brilliance of Music Director Christopher Denny, and you have what might turn out to be the best debut show of the season.
Kahn’s song list was ambitious, beginning with Julie Stein and Robert Merrill’s “Don’t Rain on My Parade” coupled with Maltby and Shire’s “I Want It All,” which at first blush could give anyone pause. But in the adroit hands of Christopher Denny these two songs were arranged perfectly for Kahn‘s voice and delivery, emphasizing the important moments in her life to which she did in fact “Say Yes.”
Throughout the evening Kahn’s voice was clear, resonant and well-placed for each song, with colors that were reminiscent of Broadway legend, Donna McKechnie.
Not one to be limited, Khan also treated us to a charming and sexy rendition of “Miss Byrd,” again by Maltby and Shire, coupled with Tim Minchin’s “Naughty,” from the musical Matilda. This pairing was unusual and illuminating, giving “Miss Byrd” a greater sense of naïveté which made it all the more appropriate within Kahn’s delivery.
Perhaps the highlight of the evening was a very moving and quietly triumphant “Wheels“ by Amanda McBroom. This song, as throughout the evening, showed Kahn’s beautiful voice and artistic integrity.
“Baby Mine“ by Frank Churchill and Ned Washington, most often associated with the Disney movie Dumbo, was here turned into a poignant story of adoption. And towards the end of her set, Craig Cornelia’s “Just a Housewife.” became an anthem that proved that Kahn was anything but.
There were several other delicious songs to be noted, one of them was Christopher Denny‘s own “Anywhere with You,” and Sara Bareilles’ “Brave,” which at first glance might not seem like the best vocal choice for Kahn, but in Denny‘s capable hands it proved to be a wonderful 11 o’clock number.
If there is any critique of this show, it is in the length of some of the patter. Some sections were extended and Kahn went up a few times, which although charming and endearing, also speaks to a “less is more” possibility.
Kahn “speaks” with more than just words. Her wonderful musical taste, vocal color, inflection of tone, and even gestures, create a whole evening experience well worth seeing. Let’s hope for further iterations of this show.
Jay Leonhart, Bass
Some Arrangements by Christopher Denny and Jeff Harnar
Photo Credit: Helane Blumfield