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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Carly Ozard's Midler Issues

Part of Bette Midler's mass appeal will always be about the triumph of the underdog, the outsider; the ugly duckling who transformed herself into a swan as if by sheer will (and, of course, an uncanny knack for song and comedy). My LGBT readers will largely relate to the theme of a diva's rise to stardom by reinventing herself through a larger-than-life, outrageous theatrical persona.

Tonight, I returned to Stage 72 at the Triad on West 72nd Street to see "Midler on the Roof," a one-woman show featuring Carly Ozard and directed by veteran cabaret performer Kristine Zbornik. I was afraid it might basically be Patti Issues for Midler fans, but thank God that was not the case! Anyhow, Ben Rimalower couldn't sing Patti if his career depended on it.

To the packed house in the cozy upstairs cabaret room where the stage boasts an ornate, nostalgic prosthemeum arch, Carly prominently took center stage with a band of four men and two female backup vocalists (ok, make that one-woman show with band), not only to regale us with the divinity of The Divine Miss M songbook, but to entertain us as a monologuist. Perhaps one of my favorite, most articulate and well-spoken in years.

A self-described "glamazon," the tall, plus-sized Miss Ozard bears no resemblance to the petite Miss M (except for the Continental Baths-era hennaed hair) and makes no attempt to sing like her idol either.

Wonderfully music directed by Steven Ray Watkins for the most part, I really didn't think Ozard's big-belter voice was in need of so much echo. With a nod to the Halloween season, singing "I Put a Spell on You" from Hocus Pocus, the chanteuse clearly had her LGBT fans in love with her act from the starting gate, witness the thunderous calls, comments, hoots and hollers from last night's crowd. None of this was performed with slavish mimicry but with fresh approaches taken to each song.

I was enamored of Carly's healthy dose of disco covers of "I'm Beautiful" and two songs Mama Midler has disowned (along with most of the cult-hit album, Thighs & Whispers), "My Knight in Black Leather" and "Married Men." The superstar is unlikely to ever sing the last two live again in our lifetimes (though it would be divine if she did). Each song was tailored to details of Ozzard's life story, largely without labored comparisons.

While power ballads like "From a Distance," "Shiver Me Timbers" and "Wind Beneath My Wings" impressed us, most truly poignant were Carly's renditions of "Hello in There" and "Friends."

Her encore went unplugged with a powerful interpretation of "Rose's Turn" that you could probably hear all the way over at the old Rose's Turn in the Village.

Carly Ozard will be back at Triad and who knows where else. She has previously performed at venues like The Duplex and Laurie Beechman Theater. A talent that has to be seen and heard to be believed, expect this act to go seriously plus-sized in the near future and deservedly so! Special thanks to Richard Skipper for inviting me to this, frankly, fabulous cabaret event of the season. And it was a special night for me personally as I officially gave notice of retirement from my day job of 15 years. More nightlife, more shows to review. Cheers!

1 comment:

  1. dahling, retired already!
    sounds like a fabulous show.