In her cabaret debut, the actress-singer marries music (James Taylor, Goffin and King) with stories of the past, including her teenage years when she dated George Michael.
Television and film credits aside, Brooke Shields has starred in such Broadway musicals as Grease, Chicago, Cabaret and Wonderful Town, and last fall she appeared in the stage adaptation of the 1992 Steve Martin movie, Leap of Faith at Los Angeles’ Ahmanson Theatre. But playing a part in an ensemble doesn’t compare to the sheer terror of performing a solo cabaret act, especially at one of Manhattan’s most prominent nightspots.
So it wasn’t surprising that the statuesque actress was palpably nervous during her sold-out opening night of a two-week engagement at New York’s Feinstein’s at Loews Regency. “I’ve been here many times,” she said when she hit the stage. “But never without a drink, so have a highball for me.”
Her anxiety turned out to be unwarranted. While no vocal powerhouse and not a particularly distinctive musical interpreter, Shields skillfully used her thespian abilities and considerable star wattage to put over well-chosen material. During the course of this autobiographically themed-show, dubbed In My Life, she displayed an engaging charm and self-deprecating humor.
Performing with a four-piece band and wisely eschewing traditional jazz and cabaret standards, Shield delivers a mixture of undemanding pop songs (James Taylor’s “Your Smiling Face,” Goffin and King’s “One Fine Day”); obscurities (Charles Aznavour’s “Rien de Rien,” seemingly chosen to showcase the French language skills she honed at Princeton); and numbers from the various shows in which she’s appeared (the hilarious “100 Ways to Lose a Man” from Wonderful Town, “Sandra Dee” from Grease).
But what really made the evening fun is the amusing patter about her lengthy career, which began with a stint as the Ivory Snow baby. Thankfully avoiding such downbeat subjects as her well-publicized bout with postpartum depression, she instead delivered a priceless anecdote about dating George Michael when she still was a teen-ager -- “I didn’t know! I didn’t know!” she protested in response to the inevitable laughter.
She paid tribute to her controlling stage mother Teri with a pairing of Rupert Holmes’ scathing “Queen Bee” (“Don’t read too much into the lyrics,” she joked) and Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler’s tender “After All.” Her rendition of “Me and My Baby” from Chicago was accompanied by an amusing account of having to play the role of Roxie Hart while she was visibly pregnant.
Shields increasingly relaxed as the evening went on, displaying a mixture of joy and relief during the final moments. And her rendition of “Take My Breath Away,” which she revealed was sung by the husband and wife jazz duo Tuck & Patti at her wedding, was deeply moving.
Directed to fine effect by theater veteran Mark Waldrop, this is an act that, with just a little more honing and slickness, could easily find success on the casino and theater circuit should Shields finds herself so inclined.