By MARILYN LESTER**** Sally Darling is a performer’s performer. With a combination of wit, good humor and enthusiasm – plus a Mabel Mercer-like approach to interpreting a song – she’ll leave you knowing you’ve just experienced an entertainment like no other. Love, Lust and Longing, the latest cabaret foray for this MAC Hanson Award winner and Bistro Award recipient is an exploration into the finer points of relationships. Darling is a thinker – and what she thinks is put together in a way that’s intelligent and clever without sacrificing accessibility. There’s no room for stuffiness here. Love, Lust and Longing is about having a good time. The double entendre of “Currier and Ives” (Romberg/Fields) and the wryness of Noel Coward’s “Alice Is at It Again” prove the point delightfully. Musical Director Matthew Martin Ward provides piano and vocal support. Duets on “You Were There”/”Close as Pages in a Book” (Noel Coward/Sigmund Romberg, Dorothy Fields), “My Mother Was a Lady” (Joseph W. Stern/Edward B. Marks) and “You’re My Home” (Billy Joel) added charm and texture to Darling’s intent of performance with purpose.
Darling’s choice of material is expertly curated to match her theme and explorations. What other for an opening number than the query “What Is This Thing Called Love?” (Cole Porter). Pertinent and well-chosen quotations dot the show, delivered with an impish glee. Musical questions and answers also abound. With “Sam” (John Farrar/Hank Marvin/Don Black) the question is: Is it love or is it lust? On the other hand, there’s a definitive answer about longing in “Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?)” (Jimmy Davis/Roger Ramirez/Jimmy Sherman). The complications of relationships are addressed with Stephen Sondheim’s “Liaisons” and “The Olives of Regret” (Nicholas Levin). Vocally, Darling does splendidly with “Barbara Song” (Kurt Weill/Marc Blitzstein). Her strong suit is interpretation, rather than vocal prowess and, in this, Weill suits her well. Darling has a slightly devilish, sophisticated flair combined with bonhomie. There’s also a gentle, sensitive side – a vulnerability that comes through, as evidenced in a lovely rendering of Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes.” For a mood-changer and bit of fun there’s a sing-along to “All You Need Is Love” (John Lennon). The encore, a duet with Ward on ”I Wish I Were in Love Again” (Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart), underscores the message that ultimately, love in all its guises is a good thing, a needful thing. Love, Lust and Longing is a journey guided by an authentic performer who’s eager to share herself with you and give you the gift of her wisdom. Who can resist not only being happily entertained but joyously enriched.
Sally Darling with Music Director Matthew Martin Ward at Don’t Tell Mama, 343 West 46 Street (Manhattan’s Restaurant Row). Remaining performances are: Wednesday, July 5 at 7 PM and Sunday afternoon, July 9 at 5 PM.
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