The first person who dropped an olive into a martini or mixed chocolate with peanut butter? They got nothing on Jim Caruso, who dreamed up the musical partnering of Aaron Weinstein and Christine Ebersole. Birdland was packet to the rafters last night for this musically stunning, and very funny, cabaret of standards and bebop.
The premise of the show is Mr. Weinstein’s assertion that the violin is the instrument closest to the human voice. The evening was ostensibly an array of duets featuring Mr. Weinstein’s violin (and electric mandolin!) and Ms. Ebersole’s voice. The melding was such that on three separate occasions, I searched for Ms. Ebersole’s back-up singers. Suffice it to say, Mr. Weinstein was right.
Perhaps upon first glance, one might be inclined to see more differences than similarities in this pairing. Ms. Ebersol (Grey Gardens, 42nd Street) is a Tony award winning Broadway, film and television actress. She has some very impressive experience under her fashionable belt. Mr. Weinstein (b.1985) is somewhat new to the scene. Often compared to Groucho Marx, his stage presence and banter belie his age. The genius in this pairing is both musical and personal. Never have any two people had such fun performing together! They are both some of the best in their musical class and possess a delightful dry wit. But oh, it’s their music.
Each time I have seen Mr. Weinstein perform, I am bowled over. Perhaps jazz violin has been played like this before, but not in my recollection. Ms. Ebersole is in ridiculously splendid voice. She growled, purred, soared and even did a little Borscht Belt ditty. Looking gorgeous and at ease, she confessed that after only two days of rehearsal, she felt shot out of a cannon. Nothing about this show felt rushed or thrown together. The evening was a lovely balance of (very funny) repartee and a gorgeous collection of incredibly interpreted music. A great deal of care was taken to steer clear of any hint of a star solo act. Ms. Ebersole seemed tickled to share the stage and spotlight and it payed off wonderfully.
As much as their beautiful music is still playing in my mind, its the beauty of the collaboration itself which will stay with me. How wonderfully creative to pair these two, and what spectacular results! Producing a creative show which artistically takes a chance will always get a standing ovation from me.