Vickie Phillips: Songs Are Like Friends

Written and directed by Bob Ost
Musical direction by Gerry Dieffenbach
Duplex Cabaret Theater
61 Christopher St. (212/255-5438)
Non-union production (closes Nov. 15)
Review by Doug DeVita

The indefatigable Vickie Phillips has balls, if nothing else. In a cabaret world where performers rely on endless interpretations of the same 100 or so standards (Phillips herself has done several shows featuring the work of Weill and Brel), Phillips took a creative risk, producing an entire evening of totally unfamiliar songs written by two mostly unsung but talented composers, her friends Bob Ost and Gerry Dieffenbach. And with the élan that is a given for this performer, she soared and scored once again in her latest, Songs Are Like Friends; Vickie Phillips sings Bob and Gerry.

If there were now a few silver threads among the gold in her voice, she was nonetheless a pro who knew how to use her instrument to its best advantage, and if there was a bit more sentimentality on display in this show than in her previous ones, the genuine emotion and artistry at her command made for a special evening of moving and exciting theatricality. That she was beautifully supported by both of her composers (in addition to their songs, Ost wrote the patter and directed; Dieffenbach supplied accompaniment both on the piano and with dead-pan, pitch-perfect asides) only added another sheen of meaning to an evening that glistened with love, laughter, and impressive music. Outfitted in simple but elegant black, a simple spotlight illuminating the flaming copper hair that framed her pale, expressive face, she delivered number after number with elegance, ease, and conviction: very few singers can tell a story in song the way she can, and she had some incredible stories to tell in the music chosen for the show. Whether funny (Ost's "Ballad of the Victim," a witty riff on Weill), jazzy (Dieffenbach's "Move It On Over"), or devastating (Ost's "David, Ever With Me"), the performer, the composer, and their stories all united to create an intimate work of art that became a love affair not only encompassing Vickie, Bob, and Gerry, but her audience as well, and everybody involved benefited from the experience. Songs are like friends, and every once in a while it is nice to meet a few new ones through old ones.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Performing: 2
Sets: N/A
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2003 Doug DeVita