Review: Karen Akers Demonstrates Star And Staying Power With ABOUT TIME at Birdland

Who became (and stayed) a legend most?

By: Apr. 27, 2023
Review: Karen Akers Demonstrates Star And Staying Power With ABOUT TIME at Birdland
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There was a sold-out house at Birdland on Monday night. There was a line of people halfway down the block, hoping for cancellations and no-shows. There was excitement in the air, the like of which one experiences at an opening night or a special appearance. Everyone was there and not one empty seat could be seen, throughout the famed nightclub. Karen Akers was back on the Birdland stage.

Review: Karen Akers Demonstrates Star And Staying Power With ABOUT TIME at Birdland

Karen Akers is nothing less than a legend in the industry of live entertainment. Legend is a tricky word because it is, too often, thrown around, and it is, too often, used to describe a person who neither fits the description nor has earned the moniker. This is not the case with Karen Akers. It is not the case with Karen Akers because Karen Akers is one of the architects of the modern cabaret scene. In the Eighties, fresh off of a Tony Award nominated performance in the original production of NINE (another legend that earned the word), Karen Akers developed a reputation for being a cabaret artist of the highest order, a reputation that has held, lo, these four decades. From the very beginning of her illustrious cabaret career, people were saying, "You've got to see Karen Akers live, she is incredible," and "Have you seen the Karen Akers show? She is beyond anything." I ought to know, I heard it, personally, from everyone. At an early age, at the relative start of her career, there was a legend that surrounded Karen Akers for being unlike any other artist on the cabaret stage. As the years passed, the legend surrounding Karen's artistry and career became the legend label that she, personally, wears today, and she wears it because she is, in fact, unlike any other artist on the cabaret stage. Just like they said.

Review: Karen Akers Demonstrates Star And Staying Power With ABOUT TIME at Birdland

In her new show ABOUT TIME, Karen played alongside her longtime esteemed collaborator and close friend, Alex Rybeck, acting as Musical Director, arranger, and conductor for the band of three - himself at the piano, bassist extraordinaire Tom Hubbard, and Karen Akers, and the threesome performed one musical monologue after another, much to the delight of an audience that sat, seemingly, at Karen's feet, like a group of Kindergartners at storytime. With unbridled confidence and overwhelming joy, the statuesque beauty strode through the club, took hold of her microphone and dove into her hour-long program consisting of the works of everyone from Lerner and Loewe (a hypnotizing "I Loved You Once In Silence") to Cyndi Lauper (a brilliantly arranged "Time After Time"), from Maltby & Shire (the rarely-sung "Stop Time") to Jim Croce (the touching "Time in a Bottle"). Time must be on Karen Akers' mind these days, for time was, clearly, the theme of the evening. With each new story being told, Ms. Akers referenced either the passage of time, the remembering of days past, or the effect of growing and evolving throughout one's lifetime. Observe the tear-inducing performance of "Both Sides Now," in which this master storyteller doesn't just detail Joni Mitchell's author's intents with the lyrics to the classic composition, Karen makes you feel every bit of her own life experience, all the while guiding you to the deepest place of your emotional memory, so that you can live, for a few minutes, inside of your own changing years gone by. There is excess within control in Karen Akers' delivery of "Selective Memory" (from The People In The Picture), as she presents a story so controlled, and yet so big as to fill the entire room, giant enough that you could live inside of it. No mere crooner on a cabaret stage is this: Karen Akers is a titan in the telling of tales, and part of what makes this singing actress so special is her ability to connect.

Review: Karen Akers Demonstrates Star And Staying Power With ABOUT TIME at Birdland

Karen Akers is always present in every single moment of her show. She understands each lyric that she sings, whether she is working with a ballad like "I've Grown Accustomed To His Face" (an evening highlight) or a comedy number like the magnificent "Conversation on a Mobile" (another evening highlight). There is nary a word nor a sentence that doesn't have Karen's full attention, but that isn't also given Karen's acting excellence. Using the words, the music, and a dictionary of expressions, both facial and physical, the storyteller wraps up the anecdotes like saltwater taffy and delivers them, like gifts, to her audience; to every single member of her audience. Nobody (and I mean nobody) reaches every single audience member the way Karen Akers does. Strolling about the stage, Karen Akers made sure to get her gaze onto the face of every person in the club, she managed to make each Birdland patron, from those in the front row to those seated in the back corner behind the piano and those seated at the last barstool, feel like she had sung just to them. At no time was Karen Akers anything but accessible. She knows when to look you in the eye, when to gaze off into the distance, when to glance down at her hand, when to refer to Alex - there is no wasted moment, no wasted movement. There is no superfluity. Whereas some singers stand on a stage, staring into the darkness, detached and unavailable to you, sitting three feet away in the dark, sitting in the room with Karen Akers is like sitting at a picnic table with your best friend as they tell a story, looking you in the eye one moment, then gazing off for a second while they find the right word, then returning to your face before glancing at the sky as a bird flies overhead, and then circling back around to you, once more, to double check that you are following the rhetoric, and also feeling like you have their full attention. Karen Akers is completely comfortable in her own skin, like an electrical ground keeping every element of the performance intentional, and every member of the audience balanced, and yet poised for flight.

Review: Karen Akers Demonstrates Star And Staying Power With ABOUT TIME at Birdland

Funny, intelligent, elegant, and accessible - that's Karen Akers, all over the place. These are but a few of the qualities that have made this storyteller the artist that she is - there are many more, some tangible, some undefinable, but the combination is magical, and when one adds the discretion with which Karen Akers chooses her collaborators (including a director who understands her and her artistic aesthetic, Sara Louise Lazarus), it's the kind of night out that New Yorkers seek when looking for that ineffable cabaret experience, the sort of experience one finds when in the presence of a legend.

Find great shows to see on the Birdland calendar HERE.

Karen Akers has no apparent social media to link but when she is back at Birdland Broadway World will make sure all our readers know.

Photos by Stephen Mosher; Visit the Stephen Mosher website HERE.

Review: Karen Akers Demonstrates Star And Staying Power With ABOUT TIME at Birdland

Review: Karen Akers Demonstrates Star And Staying Power With ABOUT TIME at Birdland

Review: Karen Akers Demonstrates Star And Staying Power With ABOUT TIME at Birdland

Review: Karen Akers Demonstrates Star And Staying Power With ABOUT TIME at Birdland

Review: Karen Akers Demonstrates Star And Staying Power With ABOUT TIME at Birdland

Review: Karen Akers Demonstrates Star And Staying Power With ABOUT TIME at Birdland

Review: Karen Akers Demonstrates Star And Staying Power With ABOUT TIME at Birdland

Review: Karen Akers Demonstrates Star And Staying Power With ABOUT TIME at Birdland

Review: Karen Akers Demonstrates Star And Staying Power With ABOUT TIME at Birdland

Review: Karen Akers Demonstrates Star And Staying Power With ABOUT TIME at Birdland

Review: Karen Akers Demonstrates Star And Staying Power With ABOUT TIME at Birdland

Review: Karen Akers Demonstrates Star And Staying Power With ABOUT TIME at Birdland

Review: Karen Akers Demonstrates Star And Staying Power With ABOUT TIME at Birdland

Review: Karen Akers Demonstrates Star And Staying Power With ABOUT TIME at Birdland

Review: Karen Akers Demonstrates Star And Staying Power With ABOUT TIME at Birdland

Review: Karen Akers Demonstrates Star And Staying Power With ABOUT TIME at Birdland

Review: Karen Akers Demonstrates Star And Staying Power With ABOUT TIME at Birdland

Review: Karen Akers Demonstrates Star And Staying Power With ABOUT TIME at Birdland

Review: Karen Akers Demonstrates Star And Staying Power With ABOUT TIME at Birdland

Review: Karen Akers Demonstrates Star And Staying Power With ABOUT TIME at Birdland Review: Karen Akers Demonstrates Star And Staying Power With ABOUT TIME at Birdland



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