Since Kate Baldwin’s 2004 Broadway breakthrough in Thoroughly Modern Millie, the artist has repeatedly tread the boards, most recently playing Irene Malloy in Hello, Dolly! Since cabaret was a second pursuit, she never got around to creating what most vocalists present early on as a get-to-know-me show. This is it, including “songs that belong to me and to which I belong.” The utterly charming Baldwin talks us though Midwest roots, commuting to auditions on her parents’ frequent flyer miles, and successes – both professional and personal (family).
She opens with “Something That You Do” written by Georgia Stitt, based on Baldwin’s own grade school experience of being told by a classmate that “nothing you make in first grade is art.” Art gives you a purpose and identity/Art is something that you do/You belong to it and it belongs to you…The aspiring actress moves to New York with only a summer camp duffle bag. “We’re just so proud of Kate,” her father apparently quipped. “She’s jobless and homeless.”
Next we hear an amusing story about auditioning for Millie with a song from Jerry Herman’s Mack and Mabel so well rehearsed that gestures were exactly repeated through seven callbacks (during which she also wore the same dress). “By that time, they were doing the gestures with me.” Vocal is fresh, clear, open. Baldwin has a long note like a frisky kite. This is an actress. She’s given thought to what character sings every number.
What the artist calls The Enormous Medley is comprised of bits and pieces of her theater repertoire, in part: My Fair Lady, A Little Night Music, She Loves Me, Wonderful Town, and White Christmas – some of which are accompanied by photos on side screens. Longer renditions of fewer songs would better allow distinction, though one can’t help but admire spirit and focus.
A beguiling “My Boy” (Jerome Kern), paired with Jerry Bock/Sheldon Harnick’s “Now I Have Everything,” is dedicated to her husband and son. Sitting still on a stool, hand on her knee, the lady puts everything into meaning, barely moving, emanating warmth.
“Look to The Rainbow” and “How Are Things in Glocca Morra” replete with lrish lilt, remind us of Baldwin’s lovely turn in the revival of Finian’s Rainbow (E.Y. Harburg/ Burton Lane). The performer makes these sound as timeless as folk melodies. Michael John LaChuisa’s “A Stranger,” from The Public Theater production of Giant, ably shows her dramatic side, while “You Could Drive a Person Crazy” (Stephen Sondheim-Company) – super cool bass and curmudgeonly clarinet – offers comedy.
Baldwin tells us us she has one seven year-old and three grown sons, introducing one of the latter. Guest Conor Ryan is currently on 50th Street in the rollicking Desperate Measures. (The two acted together in Andrew Lippa/Tom Greenwald’s John & Jen). A pop “Who?” with some additional, more personal lyrics, finds the performers exuberantly reflecting on friendship. (Barbara Anselmi/Brian Hargrove – It Shoulda Been You) Some part of the uber-expressive Ryan is always in movement. Affection is palpable.
I’m unfamiliar with Georgia Sitt/Marci Heisler’s “The Wanting of You” (The Student on Avenue B). It should be performed more often. A jazzy, noir song, here featuring twangy guitar, both music and lyric ache. Baldwin’s terrific, rhythmic rendition walks a tightrope of desolation. The very few gestures aptly jerk. Though a tandem “A Quiet Thing” (Kander & Ebb – Flora the Red Menace) and “Somebody Somewhere” (Frank Loesser – The Most Happy Fella) emerges a treat to the ear, numbers are a bit too loud/forceful for lyrical content.
The surprise of the evening is Baldwin and Ryan’s rousing duet of “Voting Avenue,” meant to encourage young people to participate in our government. It’s catchy, meaningful and should be picked up and replayed all over. (From The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.)
We close with an appealingly subdued “Ribbons Down My Back” (Jerry Herman – Hello, Dolly!). The crowd erupts in recognition. Avowedly beyond ingénue days, Kate Baldwin retains youthful radiance in performance, but has now broadened her territory. Anecdotes are winning, well placed, and economic. The show captivates.
Direction suits the performer like second skin.
Musicianship is top notch, arrangements somewhat over complicated.
Also playing October 19, October 30, 2018
Photos by Steve Friedman
Kate Baldwin – How Did You Get This Number?
Guest – Conor Ryan
Directed by Robbie Rozelle
Musical Direction/Piano-Georgia Stitt
254 West 54th Street