The New Century

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Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre (New York, NY)
150 West 65th St. at Broadway
New York, NY
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Review - Julie Wilson at The Metropolitan Room & The New Century
by Michael Dale - April 28, 2008

Though Julie Wilson was certainly not the first and by all means not the last great singer to have her heart stomped upon by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's 'Surabaya Johnny,' there is no one I can name more deserving to claim it as their signature song.  (Okay, maybe Lotte Lenya, but you know that's a special case.)  Though for many years now the 83-year-old beloved cabaret star has been singing songs less and less and speaking them more and more, there are few who can match her for painting vivid word pictures and bringing complex dramatic subtext to a lyric.  With pianist Christopher Denny doing a marvelous job of softly supporting her many pauses and tempo changes, Wilson's crushing performance of Marc Blitzstein's translation, played to a pin-drop silent crowd on opening night of her new show at The Metropolitan Room, is an emotionally striking portrayal of a woman who can explode with anger at the mistreatment she endures from her faithless lover while moments later barely control a sob at the admission that she still loves him.  Through the years I've seen Julie Wilson sing 'Surabaya Johnny' many times but her performance that night was the best I've ever seen or heard from anyone.  (And as is typical of her modesty, she actually introduced the song by complimenting Donna Murphy's performance of it on Broadway in LoveMusik.)  She follows it with a devilishly humored 'Mack the Knife' (also Blitzstein's translation) that builds so slowly and precisely that she goes through the entire song twice in order to hit the climax.  I heard no complaints. (more...)