Ebony Cabaret: Grown-Folk Goodness! (Review by LA Jazz.com)

Ebony Cabaret: Grown-Folk Goodness(Feb 22, 2013, 12:39 PM PST)

Tha Sangers & Host

Courtesy of  www.lajazz.com

Perhaps the one thing that stands out most is the high-quality level of talent.


Lacy Darryl Phillips

Hollywood touches everything in the LA area, including jam sessions. In any other city, jam sessions, in particular for singers, are straight to the point – sing your song, who’s next?

But here in Tinsel Town, there is a touch of cabaret infused in many jams, mainly because many of the singers are out of work actors. That means each song is preceded by some monologue, followed with an over-the-top performance.

In the wonderful production, “Ebony Cabaret” (I’ll call it EC for short), the spirit of the LA jam is captured in live, living color with a naughty dash of sexy!

I don’t think the producer, Desiree Parkman, was going for that vibe, but after covering numerous jam sessions for this blog, EC feels more like a jam, then a linear, story based musical – and that’s just fine with me.

Perhaps the one thing that stands out most is the high-quality level of talent.

Let’s start with the host of the show, Lacy Darryl Phillips. His performance, alone, is more than worth the price of admission, – $15 at the red-velvety M Bar in Hollywood. It is really refreshing to see and hear Broadway level talent up close and personal here on the left coast. People are born for things, whether it’s practicing medicine, architecture, engineering, etc. This man was born for the stage. Serving as the MC for the show, Phillips’ charm and talent combined to keep the show flowing with an easy pace. Topping it all off was his profoundly cool and cunning performance of the tune, “Viper”. That alone will make the cover charge, plus food minimum (a policy that’s an entertainment world plague) bearable.

Other treats included an elegant performance by Pamela Threats. Don’t let her runway-model figure fool you. Threat’s voice has the richness and depth of a Cassandra Wilson or Lala Hathaway combined with the mature sassyness of a Debra Cox or Kelly Rowland. Put that name in your mental Rolodex. You’re going to be hearing more about her in years to come.

Also, the mysterious Annabel Lee is worth noting. Opening up the show, it was clear from her first note EC is something special. Powerful and haunting in a Grace Jones sort of way, Lee had the audience on lockdown from start to finish. Her rollicking, rhumba version of Cole Porter’s 1930 smash, ‘Love For Sale’, was a nice way to get the crowd right and ready.

The show also included a poetry routine by journey woman, ShyButFly. Although her voice is a bit high, borderline childlike, her words were deep and profound. She performed two poems, but the one that stood out was the sensual, ‘I Just Want To Make Love To You”. Spoken word poetry can be inaccessible to a lot of people. But Fly brought you in, set up the message and delivered. Nice work, here.

Add to all of this, spectacular dancing and a burlesque routine by Ashleeta Beauchamp that was one of the sexiest performances you’ll ever see. Warning to men with female dates – try your best not to get yourselves in trouble during Beauchamp’s performance. It won’t be easy.

Kudos to the band, as well. Led by the always wonderful work of Aaron Provisor on piano, the trio (bass, drum) kept the music nice and tasty. Of note, the bassist, Aneesa, has a touch that’s going to take her places. Choice chops!

But even with all of this goodness, there are some things that can improve – mainly, punctuality. EC advertises that doors open at 7p, showtime at 8p. On this night, February 21st, 2013, the show didn’t start until 8:40! That’s unacceptable. Starting 10, or at the most, 15 minutes after the advertised time is bearable. Anything more is downright sloppy. After working 25 years in TV, film and stage one thing I know for sure is that that kind of tardiness will get you run right out of town – for good. Hopefully, that’ll get cleaned up for the next performance.

Also, in that time, with members of the audience already seated, cast members were practicing ON STAGE – LOUDLY. That’s a no-no. I want to be surprised by the music I paid to hear – not sitting there thinking ‘Oh, this is the song from rehearsal.’ It may be a venue issue (no Green room to rehearse or relax in). If so, I’d suggest rehearsing quietly.

Finally, the show screams for a wireless microphone. Phillips did an admirable job keeping the acts flowing, but there’s only so much you can do when you have to deal with dragging a clunky mic and mic stand on and off the stage between acts. The wireless is worth the investment.

But don’t let these minor issues deter you from seeing this show. It is fine entertainment that will hold your attention from start to finish. With a little polish, EC would be a delightful off Broadway treat. Catch it here in Hollywoodland – while you can.