Saturday November 18th 2017

“Brooks Sings Barbra” review

Recommended*** Cabaret in the greater Chicago area is alive and keeps finding new spots. One of these venues is The Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, that cozy little theater in downtown Arlington Heights. While the theater is larger than most cabaret performers are used to, this is an intimate enough space to make it work.For Valentine’s Day, a day of love, they had Charlene Brooks and her one woman show, “Brooks Sings Barbra”, a two hour musical treat of some of the favorites in Barbra Streisand’s illustrious career. Many cabaret performers, in putting their shows together, rather than just sing their favorites, prefer taking on the “persona” of their favorite singer and do only their stuff. In doing this, they try and look and sound like the star they are portraying.

While Ms Brooks has some of the looks of Ms Streisand, she doesn’t have the full range and she has chosen a period look that evidently is her comfort zone or where she feels she most resembles the super-star. I will say that she has great stage presence and plays the audience well. I was a bit bothered by some of the stories she told that were Barbra’s stories, not hers and yet she intertwined them with her growing up. There was no need for some of the stories and some of the banter. I guess she is used to playing audiences that are more “Jewish”, but in Arlington Heights, the difference was evident as some of the cute Jewish jokes didn’t work.A performer needs to know their audience and tailor the show for them.Son’s like “Sam The Man Who Made The pants Too Long” works much better with a North Shore or Skokie audience.

All in all, I found the 2 hour show to be light and entertaining as Ms Brooks covers the full range of work from “Happy Days”, “Yentl”,”Funny Girl” with songs like “My Funny Valentine” ( perfect for the evening),”Tonight” from  “West Side Story”, a little Sondheim ( how can anyone do a show without Sondheim) and of course “Memories”. A lot of music and words to remember and although she had one slip up near the end of the show, she covered it with grace and style and the audience loved the humility she expressed in starting the song again. She told us that she vowed she would not try to be perfect and that she kept her promise. Ms Brooks is quite a “showman”.

Is she “Barbra”? No, she is not! She is Charlene Brooks and worth watching on stage. By the way, her musicians were terrific-Chris Sargent on the piano,Jim Cox on the Bass,Jeff Thomas on the drums and Scott Bentall on the trombone. As I mentioned from the start, The Metropolis has a larger stage than most Cabaret venues, but under the direction of Robin M. Hughes, they were able to play to the entire house without losing the feeling or the intimacy of the “Cabaret

To learm more about future shows for Ms Brooks, visit www.charlenebrooks.com

To see what else is coming to the Metropolis visit www.MetropolisArts.com

 

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