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Cabaret Review: "Terri White"

by Jonathan Warman

Terri White made quite a splash in the recent Broadway revival of Finian’s Rainbow, belting the bluesy “Necessity” for all it was worth. During her run with Finian it came out that, less than two years earlier, White was truly destitute, unable to find work as a singer.

That’s truly criminal, because as White demonstrates in her Feinstein’s debut “Life Is Good!” she’s one of the best singers imaginable. White interprets rhythm & blues, standards and showtunes with a fire usually only seen in rock and roll, and a razor-sharp wit and intelligence all her own.

White makes reference to her troubles with songs like “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.” At the climax of that song, in one of several electrifying moments in the show, White swings the microphone away from her mouth and belts away with just as much volume. This display of elegantly controlled rage and breathtaking vocal firepower gave me goosebumps.

White is uniquely capable of tapping into powerful emotion while remaining in rigorous control of her phrasing. During the moving “Everything Must Change” tears were streaming down her face; the surge of feeling spurred her, not to break down, but to take her interpretation to new heights. The drama is very real and so is the artistry.

It’s not all high drama, though. White is wickedly funny and her caricature of Nell Carter (for whom she understudied in Ain’t Misbehavin’) is a riot, if a bit too long. She also gets every last bit of bawdy comedy out of “When You’re Good To Mama” from Chicago (in which she is currently playing Mama Morton).

Another astonishing cabaret act! What a year for cabaret 2010 is turning out to be! This one might be a bit under the radar, with only two performances at Feinstein’s: the one I saw on May 3 and a special Mother’s Day performance on Sunday, May 9. Take my advice — if you can afford it, there isn’t a better place to celebrate Mother’s Day.

For tickets, click here.

For more reviews and interviews by Jonathan Warman, see dramaqueennyc.blog.  


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