BY ROB LESTER**** One of the more interesting singers on the scene these days is the one with the lovely name of Sally Darling whose newest solo cabaret show Love, Lust & Longing I am longing to see. While Ms. Darling has been around the cabaret scene in New York City for a while now, her profile has risen recently, after winning the committee-chosen MAC Hanson Award for artists previously not nominated in a competitive category for an award by MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs). Interestingly, she was then nominated in the Female Vocalist category in short order, and she and her fellow nominees (lady nominees, not fellows) have united as a team to do a show together! This unusual move of non-competitive female bonding is a splendid idea. Another award she’s picked up is from the Bistro committee, and she’s garnering fine reviews all over the place, too. Those who frequent Salon, the Sunday open mic on West 44th Street, at Etc. Etc. Restaurant also know the classy lady as a regular presence. Her last go-round the cabaret carousel found her spinning the songs of Noel Coward, a task she’s quite the good fit for indeed. She worked on programs of Coward and Cole Porter in the past and seems to have with the urbane, sophisticated witty songs flowing in her bloodstream. The Darling musical path these days is guided by pianist Matthew Martin Ward, who’s also been working with former NiteLife Person of the Week Barbara Malley on her OMG! Am I a Diva? Show, directed by none other than Sally Darling. When Bobbie Horowitz’s series saluted the (non-) diva in question, the director was one of the guests.
Love, Lust & Longing presents a potpourri of songs from a wide range of origins on the topics of romance requited and “un,” from the fairy tale fantasy feel to numbers with more basic carnality invoked. But be assured that the typical Darling touch of cleverness, humor, and elegance will prevail. A magnetic performer with electric eyes and strong features accented by her trademark very short, no-nonsense steel gray hair-do make Sally Darling instantly memorable, and when a smile lights up her face with the joy of an especially spicy or smart lyric or rhyme, it lights up the room, too. (Technical director, take note.)
The June show times at Don’t Tell Mama at 343 West 46 Street (Manhattan’s Restaurant Row) are: Sunday, June 4 at 5 PM and Friday, June 9 at 7 PM. Then she returns in July, just after fireworks day to create her own kind of fireworks on Wednesday, July 5 at 7 PM and a final Sunday afternoon, July 9 at 5 PM.
Also at DTM: she’ll join those other 2017 MAC nominees for for Female Vocalist— Celia Berk, Meg Flather, Josephine Sanges, and Lisa Viggiano—for Together, on Sunday, June 25 at 4:15 PM, benefiting Trinity Church’s LGBTQ Youth Programs. Miss Darling, in a group interview with all the women posted on www.CabaretScenes.org, emphasized that they “needn’t be rivals” and, after others commented on the blossoming friendships respect that have come from the planning of the event, she hinted that the entertainers are themselves entertaining the notion of doing other such group fundraisers.
L to R: Sanges, Berk, Darling, Viggiano, Flather
In a time when that song from the musical Chicago that asks “What ever happened to ‘Class’?” seems truer than ever, I find Sally Darling to be a refreshing reminder of it, immersing herself in intelligent and champagne-worthy material, ever accessible and embraced, without a sense of snobby condescension or stale museum antiquity. She doesn’t underestimate an audience’s ability to “get” what she’s singing. And Mr. Ward is a worthy musical collaborator who also loves the smart stuff.
NiteLifeExchange has been part of the cabaret journalism world that could even be thought of Darling’s darlings. Reviewer Dr. Larry Myers gushed, “In light of contemporary crass, coarse Trump tabloid-like media, her ultra-sophistication seems like exotica. She summons up a more refined zeitgeist via an inspired awareness and an informed consciousness,” later adding, “Ms. Darling did not disappoint one iota. Her sensibility understands the innuendo, subtlety and nuance of Coward’s wordplay.”
Longtime cabaret observer Roy Sander began his review of a 2015 show saying, “Over the past few years, I’ve seen Sally Darling sing at Salon open mic any number of times. In her interpretations, her commentary, and her presence, she exhibited qualities I very much liked -intelligence, wit, and a playful, ever-so-slightly skewed – but still quite sensible – world view,” and then said of his first time seeing a solo show of hers, “The qualities I’d come to expect are all there in this show.”
Constance Radut at TheaterScene.net analyzed her appeal thusly: “Sally has the unique ability to make you laugh and take an-depth look at yourself at the same time. She cleverly intertwines her music with witty text that gives it context and flavor that draws her audience into her web, teaching them life’s valuable lessons while entertaining them. It is one of her special gifts. She draws a crowd and this packed house at Mama’s was all in.”
In a Six Questions interview with NiteLifeExchange, this Noel Coward interpreter was asked what advice she’d give a singer who wanted to include works of the Master in a show, and she replied with this wise counsel: “I’d say: If you’re doing the patter songs, be precise. If you’re doing a ballad, resonate with it. Above all, pay full attention to the lyrics; they’re brilliant and each word is exactly what he meant to say.”
When Richard Skipper (Richard Skipper Celebrates) tossed some questions her way on his website, he asked what her biggest challenge is every week, and answered, “I’m a doer, always looking ahead. My biggest challenge each week, each day, is to fully be where I am at the moment. When I’m working, creating, I’m totally immersed, but otherwise I tend to focus on tomorrow.”
Tym Moss also interviewed her for his Artists Exposed program. She honestly discussed her upbringing and conditioning in Virginia, her move to NYC and back again and finally back to our city for good in 1980. She explained how, after an unsuccessful marriage, she decided that she prefers solitude and the single life. Her background was in theatre, off-Broadway and regional theatre. For about 15 years, she has been the voice of recorded books, including beating out over 100 others to record To Kill a Mockingbird, among her 250 titles. “You mustn’t let yourself get between the listener and the story,” is the lesson she learned, something some “actors” think is easy. One day she was asked by an acquaintance to help direct a group cabaret show’s opening number. Paul Trueblood was the musical director and they all hit it off, and she was asked to direct the whole act. Having missed singing in musical theatre, she began regular sessions with Trueblood for her own enjoyment. “And one day, he said, ‘You have enough songs for a cabaret act.’ and I said ‘What?!'” And, she adds, “I did five shows with Paul.” That started in 2005. After he died suddenly in 2012, Don’t Tell Mama’s booking manager Sidney Myer took her aside “and he said, ‘Now you are not stopping!!!'” and he gave her suggestions for new pianists. She settled on Matthew Martin Ward, and they then did five shows together.
(The podcast, which includes songs by the artist, can be heard at this link:
See the June and July pages at www.DontTellMamaNYC.com/shows
For more on Sally Darling, see http://www.SallyDarling.net