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BWW Review: Karen Oberlin and BEWITCHED: THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF LORENZ HART Present Mr. Hart With Elegance and Affection at Birdland

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In her first solo show since the shutdown, a newly coiffed Karen Oberlin takes on a cherished lyricist from the past.

BWW Review: Karen Oberlin and BEWITCHED: THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF LORENZ HART Present Mr. Hart With Elegance and Affection at Birdland Did you ever see something so beautiful that it almost hurt to look at? Maybe a particularly majestic swan or the Swiss Alps, perhaps the Tiffany diamond or the most perfect bloom your mother ever grew in her garden? That's Karen Oberlin, all over the place. When this singing actress sets foot onto a stage in front of you, it's almost impossible to not gasp or, at least, to murmur to your escort, "She sure is elegant." It's not the kind of elegance you get when you go to the right school or have an affluent lifestyle, either; this is the kind of elegance you're born with, the kind that comes from knowing (really knowing) who you are, the kind of elegance that gives you a strength and a grace that comes from deep within. That's Karen Oberlin, all over the place.

BWW Review: Karen Oberlin and BEWITCHED: THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF LORENZ HART Present Mr. Hart With Elegance and Affection at Birdland

BWW Review: Karen Oberlin and BEWITCHED: THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF LORENZ HART Present Mr. Hart With Elegance and Affection at Birdland So when Karen Oberlin stepped onto the Birdland stage on Monday night in head to toe velvet (by stage light it could've been black, it could've been chocolate brown - either works), rhinestone-encrusted pumps, aquamarine blue eyes set in alabaster skin, newly strawberry-tinted tresses and a slash of fire engine lipstick, the famed jazz nightclub was on elegance overload. It was almost worth the ticket price alone, just to look at Karen Oberlin... but why stop there? This was an evening dedicated to the lyrics and life of Lorenz Hart. Who else but Karen Oberlin should be doing this show? With her charm and beauty, her wit and wisdom, and her skills as a singing actress, BEWITCHED: THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF Lorenz Hart was an artistic effort that was floating in the ether, waiting to be born.

BWW Review: Karen Oberlin and BEWITCHED: THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF LORENZ HART Present Mr. Hart With Elegance and Affection at Birdland

BWW Review: Karen Oberlin and BEWITCHED: THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF LORENZ HART Present Mr. Hart With Elegance and Affection at Birdland Working from jazz arrangements by the brilliant Tedd Firth, Ms. Oberlin presented twenty-three songs in her Lorenz Hart tribute show, some of the songs artfully arranged into one number for artistic effect and to keep the show at a respectable run time. It's a generous offering that she and her crackerjack team have created, as they find new ways to showcase these musical treasures, beloved by many, including the featuring of lyrics not often heard, for one reason or another, and Ms. Oberlin is kind enough (and elegant enough) to be sure to draw attention to some of the more, shall we say, bold lyrics, particularly bold when one considers the era during which they originated. Discreetly deciding when to talk trivia and when to let the compositions do the talking, Ms. Oberlin is particularly effective in communicating her personal feelings for Mr. Hart, her respect for his work, her empathy for his pain, and her appreciation for his contribution to the world, not just the world of music: the world. Listening to her as she speaks, there can be no doubt how much she gets him, especially if you, yourself, are a person who gets Larry Hart. Members of the fan club will feel a kinship to the show's star, one that bonds.

BWW Review: Karen Oberlin and BEWITCHED: THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF LORENZ HART Present Mr. Hart With Elegance and Affection at Birdland BWW Review: Karen Oberlin and BEWITCHED: THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF LORENZ HART Present Mr. Hart With Elegance and Affection at Birdland During the spoken segments of the performance, it is an interesting observation to note when Karen goes off-book. Obviously, with an evening this detailed, a script is essential, and Ms. Oberlin adheres to her script with great intent, and it sometimes feels that way, almost like she is a prisoner of it, and then something wonderful happens - a moment of spontaneity that lights the leading lady ablaze, like a brief discussion Monday night about Mary Cleere Haran, Rainbow and Stars, and the placing of tabletop glimmer, playfully, upon the face. Seeing Karen Oberlin, the woman, poke her head out now and then as Karen Oberlin, the actress, takes a breather is refreshing and uplifting. It is during one of those really personal moments that Oberlin shone brightest. Near the end of the show, while discussing Hart's final days, his demise, and his affect on her, Karen was most touching, almost heartbreaking, as she spoke from an authentic place within, and then segued into a stunning encore that this writer would not spoil for anything in this world, but that was his favorite storytelling moment all night long. Suffice it to say, were Karen Oberlin to do her entire show in the same manner as this encore, it would be an artistic triumph never to be forgotten.

BWW Review: Karen Oberlin and BEWITCHED: THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF LORENZ HART Present Mr. Hart With Elegance and Affection at Birdland

BWW Review: Karen Oberlin and BEWITCHED: THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF LORENZ HART Present Mr. Hart With Elegance and Affection at Birdland This moment of praise about the BEWITCHED encore is not to diminish the rest of Karen Oberlin's act, for the evening is rich with wonderful moments, like a "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" that will have you dreaming of a full production of Pal Joey with Oberlin playing Vera Simpson, a fascinatingly eyebrow raising arrangement of "This Funny World" with a modern-day composition, and a "To Keep My Love Alive" with every acting moment fully realized, further conjuring the list of roles on the theatrical stage that would benefit from a Karen Oberlin interpretation. The evening's entertainment is an authentic look at what a tribute show can and should be... that is, when a singer has some investment in that which they honor through their work. While some performers choose, randomly, what their next act will be about, basing their decision on inconsequential factors, Karen Oberlin took to her drafting table and rehearsal room a subject, a man, a cannon of music that fits her interests and her aesthetic. Fortunately, when she did that, she took Tedd Firth with her, along with Steve Doyle on bass, Ray Marchica on drums, and John Di Martino on piano - the gentlemen take good care of Karen, protecting and supporting her in all moments onstage (and, one suspects, off stage, too). Theirs is a successful artistic partnership, one that significantly informs the quality of BEWITCHED, though there were times Monday night when it looked like Ms. Oberlin doesn't quite have the show in her muscle memory yet. Perhaps it was the result of first-night jitters, maybe another few rehearsals are in order, but just a few times throughout, the flow of the show seemed slightly behind the curve, something easily strengthened with further exploration, rehearsal, and audience-informed performances. And Karen Oberlin can look forward to many more of those audience-informed performances because she and Team Oberlin have curated a comprehensive and entertaining collection of songs to represent the genius of Lorenz Hart and she, herself, has compiled a well-balanced trove of facts, trivia, and heartfelt reminiscences to keep alive the humanity of a man whose life was lonely but whose legend inspires nothing but love.

And that is the kind of beauty that doesn't hurt at all.

Karen Oberlin BEWITCHED: THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF Lorenz Hart played Birdland only once but other great shows can be found at the Birdland website HERE.

Find Karen Oberlin online at her website HERE.

Karen Oberlin gets a four out of five microphones rating for the occasional use of a lyric sheet, tablet, or music stand.

BWW Review: Karen Oberlin and BEWITCHED: THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF LORENZ HART Present Mr. Hart With Elegance and Affection at Birdland

BWW Review: Karen Oberlin and BEWITCHED: THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF LORENZ HART Present Mr. Hart With Elegance and Affection at Birdland BWW Review: Karen Oberlin and BEWITCHED: THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF LORENZ HART Present Mr. Hart With Elegance and Affection at Birdland BWW Review: Karen Oberlin and BEWITCHED: THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF LORENZ HART Present Mr. Hart With Elegance and Affection at Birdland BWW Review: Karen Oberlin and BEWITCHED: THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF LORENZ HART Present Mr. Hart With Elegance and Affection at Birdland BWW Review: Karen Oberlin and BEWITCHED: THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF LORENZ HART Present Mr. Hart With Elegance and Affection at Birdland
BWW Review: Karen Oberlin and BEWITCHED: THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF LORENZ HART Present Mr. Hart With Elegance and Affection at Birdland

BWW Review: Karen Oberlin and BEWITCHED: THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF LORENZ HART Present Mr. Hart With Elegance and Affection at Birdland BWW Review: Karen Oberlin and BEWITCHED: THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF LORENZ HART Present Mr. Hart With Elegance and Affection at Birdland

BWW Review: Karen Oberlin and BEWITCHED: THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF LORENZ HART Present Mr. Hart With Elegance and Affection at Birdland BWW Review: Karen Oberlin and BEWITCHED: THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF LORENZ HART Present Mr. Hart With Elegance and Affection at Birdland

BWW Review: Karen Oberlin and BEWITCHED: THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF LORENZ HART Present Mr. Hart With Elegance and Affection at Birdland

BWW Review: Karen Oberlin and BEWITCHED: THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF LORENZ HART Present Mr. Hart With Elegance and Affection at Birdland BWW Review: Karen Oberlin and BEWITCHED: THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF LORENZ HART Present Mr. Hart With Elegance and Affection at Birdland

BWW Review: Karen Oberlin and BEWITCHED: THE LIFE AND LYRICS OF LORENZ HART Present Mr. Hart With Elegance and Affection at Birdland Photos by Stephen Mosher


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