Barbara Brussell

Review of August's show, and the CD:
by Gina Zollman
(Reviewer for Beverly Hills Outlook)

August 18, 2005

Barbara Brussell's new CD, "Lerner in Love," is a passionate, musically inspired love letter to that most romantic and yet urbane of American musical theatre lyricists, Alan Jay Lerner. Brussell's effervescence, her California blonde looniness and her New York laser energy combine to make her an utterly magical and ultimately impeccable interpreter of Lerner's oeuvre. But it is this seasoned performer's enormous range as an actress and her unending, emotionally pitch-perfect, rich and resounding vocal chops that truly breathe new life into these heart-stoppers.

Barbara Brussell's second CD in seven years is chock full of over 21 Lerner concoctions, starting us off with a tailor-made opener, "It's Time For A Love Song." Her ensemble is as tight and as lyrical as these gems, lilting away while Barbara regales us with songs and stories that capture the essence of Lerner's life and genius.

Always in the moment, ever surprising us no matter how familiar the tune, Barbara speaks the opening line of "Almost Like Being in Love," sighing, "What a day this has been," living the reality of the words for us. Lerner, though "high-born," had a facility for the everyday sentiment, and was known for his accessible, down-to earth phrasings, so rarely found in stage singing in that time. The combination of this wordsmith and this song revivalist is unbeatable.

In her show, Almost Like Being in Love: the Life, Loves, and Lyrics of Alan Jay Lerner (where the CD derived), musical sorceress, Brussell conjures up the life and times of Alan Jay Lerner in witty biographical snippets that sound thoughtful and unrehearsed. By the end of this well-crafted labor of love, replete with clever medleys and inventive arrangements, laughter, whimsy and intelligent reflection, well-researched synthesis and overview, you feel a rare kinship with Alan Jay Lerner through his happening, hippie, yet continental chanteuse, Barbara Brussell.

Barbara's inventive donning of many of Lerner's male-identified songs, such as "Gigi", "I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face", and "Thank Heaven For Little Girls", sheds new light on these gems, giving us insight into their exquisite, seldom-plumbed depths. Lerner's most familiar songs, such as "On the Street Where You Live" and "On a Clear Day," are sung so full-voiced and harkening, Brussell makes you wonder if you've ever heard them before. Barbara sings them like a clarion call to wake you up to the stark prayer beneath their happy verses, a prayer for the gift of love. Lerner so believed in love he married eight times! Who better to tell us what it is like to fall so hard, so fast...and so often! From the obscure to the Academy Award-winning, these offerings illuminate a life dedicated to expressing truth in lyrical candor, as only Alan Jay Lerner could.

Hats off to Barbara and her able crew of cabaret cohorts, most notably, Todd Schroeder on piano, also her arranger, co-producer and musical director. From his fawn-like and delicate cushioning of Barbara's peeling strains, to his full-on orchestrations, he makes the piano, bass, drums and sax sound like a dozen denizens of a Broadway orchestra pit. Kudos to producer extraordinaire, Frank Skillern, who plucked Barbara from a wintry foray one night at Danny's Skylight Room and said in true showbiz fashion, "Let's make a C.D. of this show!" We're so grateful he did! Get this C.D., "Barbara Brussell, Lerner in Love," at music stores, via LML Music or through Barbara's own, You'll fall in love with Lerner and Barbara, I guarantee it.