One of the pleasures of hearing the ever-wonderful Karen Akers, in addition to enjoying her show of the moment, is marveling at the trajectory of her career. Each time out she surprises with new eloquence and direction, and such is the case with her current “Dancing on the Ceiling” program in the Oak Room of the Algonquin (Sept. 14-Oct. 23, 2010), devoted to songs by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. There appears to be no ceiling to the expanding talent of this intriguing cabaret diva.
From the moment she opens with “Where or When” and “Isn’t It Romantic?” Akers establishes her grand style of intimacy, clarity and enthusiasm, all the while looking great as usual, with her slim figure, high cheekbones and elegant garb, in this case a long, dark green satin, bare-shouldered gown. Other singers also have the knack of making it seem as if they are singing directly to you, but Akers is extra adept at creating this illusion. At one point in the show I experienced, it felt as if we were the only two in the room.
When during the course of the evening she embraces the words “my greatest joy” in a lyric, she gives the impression that she really is experiencing a great burst of sheer joyfulness. It is also clear how much she is in love with the Rodgers and Hart treasure trove, and she reminds us why so many of their numbers are our favorites as well. This particular outing is permeated with feelings of romance captured with such examples as “Easy to Remember,” “My Heart Stood Still,” “I Could Write a Book,” “It Never Entered My Mind” and a ravishing “Blue Moon.”
She also is more relaxed than I remember her from some years past, reflected in the sense of fun she often injects, as with the lyric “trilling makes a fellow willing” from “Sing for Your Supper.” She also gives a classy interpretation of “The Lady is a Tramp” that carries more of a wink than sex. Her “A Lady Must Live” comes across as a heartfelt desire rather than a brassy outcry.
Most importantly, Akers has matured into a performer in absolute command of her repertoire and a master of the ability to gain maximum meaning out of virtually every word and phrase, all the while seeming as if she is having a great time herself and always with impeccable attention to each song’s vocal nuances. You can share her joy in this show directed by Eric Michael Gillett, with Don Rebic as musical director and pianist and Dick Sarpola on bass. At the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel, 59 West 44th Street. Phone: 212-419-9331 or firstname.lastname@example.org.