VAMP: The Songs of Kander & Ebb
Kander & Ebb’s music has been sung by some of the biggest women in theatre. Liza Minelli. Judy Garland. Chita Rivera. Bebe Neuwirth. Barbra Streisand. And now Elise Brennan (Guys & Dolls, Jersey Boys) has taken on these iconic songs in the cabaret show VAMP: The Songs of Kander & Ebb delivering a performance worthy of any of these stage legends.
This famous song-writing duo wrote their fair share of songs for scorned women ready to seek revenge from the world. Their extensive catalogue of songs includes ‘Mein Herr’, ‘Cabaret’ and ‘Maybe this Time’ from Cabaret, ‘All That Jazz’ and ‘My Own Best Friend’ from Chicago, ‘New York, New York’ and the pair even wrote Kiss of the Spiderwoman. VAMP takes each of these well-known songs and weaves them through a number of different stories.
From political activist Eleanor Roosevelt to Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers and France’s heroine Joan of Ark, VAMP uses the music of Kander & Ebb to bring new life to the life stories of each of these women who have been scorned by powerful men. But don’t get the wrong impression, this cabaret isn’t a night of man bashing . . . it is a night of man slaughtering! Much like what put the merry murderesses in Cook County Jail.
Elise Brennan has a pretty tough job in this cabaret. Each of the songs she takes on are so closely associated with some of the most acclaimed divas in the theatre world leaving some very big shoes to fill. But the performance she delivers fills these shoes and then some. Elise dazzles on stage, blowing the audience away with her powerhouse voice easily moving from big production numbers such as ‘New York, New York’ to sultry jazz ballads from Kiss of the Spiderwoman.
But the highlights came when she tackled two of the most iconic Kander & Ebb songs. ‘All That Jazz’, the opening number from Chicago, was reimagined with a bi-lingual twist telling the story of the French Creole Goddess Josephine Baker as Elise deftly commanded both English and French versions of the song. Before, later in the show, transporting the audience into Nazi Germany’s Kit Kat Klub for a sultry version of ‘Mein Herr’ that would have made Liza jealous!
Accompanying her through this journey was Jack Earle (Strictly Ballroom, The Jack Earle Big Band) on piano. The way he seamlessly weaved through the Kander & Ebb catalogue was remarkable, teasing the audience with some of their iconic melodies as segues between show tunes and providing incredible interpretations of these songs bringing them well and truly into the twenty-first century.
VAMP has unfortunately finished its short run at Ruby’s Music Room. But look out for Elise Brennan’s next project because if Life was a Cabaret then this talented lady would be sold out!