Up, with a Twist

Upstairs at Vitello's
Studio City, CA
Whatever your drink of choice, you can’t go wrong if you have it Up, with a Twist, the monthly series of revues that gives singers a chance to perform songs with a bit of a twist — songs they might not otherwise choose outside this concept.

The genial hosts are Todd Sherry and Heather Olt, two performers at the top of their game, who have worked together enough over the years to develop superb communication skills and timing that enables them to do witty, hilarious, off-the-cuff introductions that keep the audience entertained even when no one is singing.

In this fourth edition of the show, the deep-voiced Olt offered up a tribute to Ben Vereen with “Corner of the Sky” (Stephen Schwartz, from Pippin), using her powerful voice to build to a strong crescendo. Sherry offered a straightforward version of “The Nearness of You” (Hoagy Carmichael/Ned Washington) before switching to a twisted version called “The Queerness of You” (lyrics by Dave Bass).

One of the evening’s highlights was J. Elaine Marcos singing Kander & Ebb’s “All That Jazz” as a dim, deluded, untalented performer might, mangling the words and repeatedly singing “all that jizz,” but doing a superior job of moving like a Fosse dancer throughout the number.

Then there was Joanne Worley (pictured), who said she got rid of her Midwest accent by taking lessons from a Brooklyn voice teacher — leading to a very funny rendition of Meredith Willson’s “Till There Was You” that became “till there was youse.” Sharon McNight did Mae West doing Kander & Ebb’s “Everybody’s Girl,” complete with red boa, eye rolls and suggestive gestures, though the powerful growl she emitted was pure McNight.

Brett Ryback used his warm, tender voice to croon “I Won’t Dance,” à la Rat Pack, accompanying himself on the piano. Kathy Deitch turned “One Night Only” (Tom Eyen/Henry Krieger, from Dreamgirls) into a slow-paced ballad with her clear, soaring voice and powerful belt. Sandra Benton offered up a soulful, expressive vocal on “I (Who Have Nothing)” (Leiber & Stoller, based on an Italian song by Carlo Donida and Giulio Rapetti).

Ruth Williamson used her powerful belt on “Mother Nature’s Lament” (Steven Silverstein, with lyrics by Williamson) — an amusing song about the environmental problems facing Mother Nature that likened lines in her face to the San Andreas Fault—while Rob Dietz, part of an a cappella group called Toxic Audio, sang a smooth lead vocal on “Spooky” (Mike Sharpe/Harry Middlebrooks Jr./Buddy Buie/James Cobb) with group founder Rene Ruiz joining Anna Rothfuss, Devon Davidson and Jarrett Johnson on backup harmonies. The Lampshades — Kate Flannery and Scot Robinson — performed a deliberately lousy lounge act while singing Barry Manilow’s hit “Mandy” at techno-dance tempo.

Ron Snyder provided superb musical support throughout the fun-packed evening.

Elliot Zwiebach
Cabaret Scenes
September 8, 2014