Sunday, April 12, 2015

Cabaret Review: An auspicious debut by Gina Otto

Who: Gina Otto
What: The Lovers, the Dreamers, and Me
Where: The Gaslight Theatre, St. Louis, MO
When: April 9, 2015

Our town's newest cabaret headliner, Gina Otto, made an auspicious debut at the Gaslight Cabaret Festival with "The Lovers, the Dreamers, and Me." Although not without its issues, the show was well received by a sold-out house that clearly included a lot of Ms. Otto's fans from the local country club circuit, where she performs regularly.

The evening was distinguished by intriguing song choices, including one I'd never heard before: "You Don't Love Me," from Dutch jazz singer Caro Emerald's 2010 album "Deleted Scenes from the Cutting Room Floor." It's an upbeat, verbally inventive little number along the lines of The Cherry Poppin' Daddies (or, for those of you from my generation, Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks) that suited Ms. Otto's light voice well in one of many smart arrangements by pianist and music director Carol Schmidt.

There were other songs that I thought worked especially well. A lyrical "Hopelessly Devoted to You," for example, was enriched by Ms. Otto's memories of singing with her father. "I Can Cook Too," a rarely heard comic number from "On the Town," was amusingly prepped as relationship advice, and the way it segued into a parody version of "McArthur Park" was a nice touch. I've never been able to take those lyrics with a straight face anyway, and Ms. Otto had some well-deserved fun with them.

Throughout the evening Ms. Otto was engaged and charming with the audience. I found the overall emotional range of the evening a bit limited, though. She did not often delve deeply into lyrics, and the overall tone seemed more suited to a supper club environment, where the singer is not so much in focus for the audience. When Ms. Otto really connected with a lyric at a deeper level—as she did in a torchy "The Man I Love"—she was more compelling. I wished she had done that more often.

I also wished she had not held the mic directly in front of her mouth quite so much. It partly blocked the view of her expressive face.

That said, it was a lively first show and the audience was clearly entertained. The local cabaret scene continues to grow and new faces are always welcome.

Gina Otto's appearance conclud the spring edition of producer Jim Dolan's Gaslight Cabaret Festival at the Gaslight Theater on North Boyle, which concluded on April 11th. For information on upcoming shows:

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