BWW Reviews: ROSLYN KIND Returns To 54 Below With Another Sold-Out Show That Is Simply Sublime
After a 20-year absence from Manhattan cabaret, Roslyn Kind resurfaced last Spring with a sold out run at 54 Below (see video from one of those shows below). The show was a hit and audiences so adored her, she probably could have extended a month. At the time, she was fresh off a world tour that that began at Brooklyn's Barclays Center and famously included her nephew Jason Gould, acclaimed jazz trumpeter Chris Botti, and half sister Barbra Streisand with whom she sang some duets.
The tour proved fortuitous for Kind as it reminded the public of her unique singing talents that have sporadically embraced audiences since the 1970s. In those early years, when night clubs flourished and were playgrounds for legendary artists, she held her own making an auspicious debut at The Persian Room at The Plaza Hotel in 1969 (where Liza Minnelli also launched her solo act) as well as performing at the Grand Finale (where Chita Rivera did her first cabaret act), and The Playboy Club. She was also a popular attraction at Studio One in West Hollywood. She returned to Manhattan cabaret in the early '90s, appearing at the Blue Room at The Supper Club, a well-received visit that reminded fans she had been missing too long from Gotham nightlife.
Well, Roslyn Kind is back now and that's what counts.
For the Brooklyn native returned to 54 Below for the first three days in May and again her show was a hit under the masterful direction of Broadway's Richard Jay-Alexander (who also happened to direct that international tour.) Again, the room was packed and the show, which had more than a touch of pastiche, featured vintage song selections revisited from her career as well as some novelty songs, show tunes, and personal favorites that pleased her loyal fans. Kind has always had a natural rapport with her audiences and that hasn't changed. Laughing often, she poked fun at herself with ease. Holding up her RCA debut album Give Me You, with a silly, unflattering pose on the cover, she joked, "I'm sorry, they made me do it!"
Entering from the rear and handing out flowers, she opened with It's A Beautiful Day (from that same album) setting a warm and personal tone. Singing in a dark, honeyed voice, Kind provided many interesting highlights, including a rousing "All That Jazz" from Chicago that had her chide the producers for not casting her in the show ("They've cast everybody else!"). She talked about first seeing Ann Hampton Callaway while performing on a gay cruise in 1987. This segued into a heartfelt delivery of Ann's romantic ballad "Perfect," which Kind said was written for her. Other highlights included a reflective nod to The Beatles' with "Fool On the Hill," a melancholic "Times Like These (A Girl Could Use A Dog)" from Lucky Stiff (Ahrens-Flaherty) and she had great comic fun with Francesca Blumenthal and Ronny Whyte's offbeat "If He Were Straight And I Was Young"(originally introduced by the late Julie Wilson.) Her strongest entry came with a beautifully realized "I Just Have To Breathe," sung in a rich, fibrous voice. Kind has always had a natural affinity for careful phrasing and diction.
Spending an hour with Roslyn Kind reinforces what critics and audiences have long known; she's simply special. It is evident that little has changed with her since she burst on the cabaret scene at the beginning of her career (which has included success on Broadway, movies and television). Her reputation as a fluent vocalist with clarity of tone gives her a natural, emotional connect on well chosen songs (in spite of several selections that were mainstays from the past.) Overall, Kind achieves all that is required in an intimate space. The tone of the evening was relaxed and quite straightforward, without a lot of slick packaging. Aside from an occasional fast vibrato, the sinewy voice is in tact and always expressive and intimate.
Closing with another throwback to her early days, Kind sang her personal favorite, "Can You Read My Mind?" from Superman. Knowing her director didn't like the song much, she joked, "But it's my show." Let's hope her cabaret visits become more frequent. This is an artist with a lot to offer--and nothing to prove. She arrived a long time ago.
As usual, Alex Rybeck provided exceptional backing as musical director and arranger. Jered Egan on bass and Dan Gross on drums perfectly complemented the singer on every note.
From This Author John Hoglund