Daily News - The Music Scene

by Patricia O'Hare


Judy Kaye has a voice that could drive a person crazy - with envy.

She can sing opera, Broadway musicals (she played Rizzo in Grease and won a Tony as the spoiled prima donna in The Phantom of the Opera), concerts, perform at the White House (twice) and the Hollywood Bowl - and then go and act in an episode or two of Law & Order.

Now, for the first time in over two decades, she's back singing in a club, this time at Arci's Place on Park Avenue South. Her last club date was in 1978, and she was on Broadway in On the Twentieth Century. When the curtain came down, she rushed down to Reno Sweeney's on W.13th St. to do another show.

She's not moonlighting now - her last Broadway role was in Ragtime - but she is singing some beautiful numbers, most of which come from long-forgotten Broadway shows. Her performance opens with "My Shining Hour" and closes with her tribute to the next President, whoever he may be - "Take Care of This House," from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, a show written by Leonard Bernstein and Alan Jay Lerner.

Kaye has a delightful sense of humor, and it's put to good use on Stephen Sondheim's "I Never Do Anything Twice" and on two numbers associated with Fanny Brice. One, "The Sheik of Avenue B," comes complete with Yiddish accent. The other, "Weren't We Fools," was written by Cole Porter for Brice but never sung by her. Kaye also performs a lovely ballad by Kurt Weill, "It Never Was You."

It is a beautiful show, full of numbers that Kaye obviously loves doing, and she wraps her voice neatly around each note. It's hard to quibble with what she has chosen, but here goes: A club is not a concert hall. It's an intimate place where performer and audience get to know each other and share thoughts and dreams. Kaye's song list is impeccable, but there's no link from song to song, and she doesn't share her reasons for choosing them or what they mean to her.

A little more communication with the audience about her choices would make the evening more memorable.

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