The Beverly Hills Outlook
A Biweekly Review of the Arts and Culture in Southern California
Barbara Brussell at the Gardenia. 8/9/03
BY GINA ZOLLMAN
To me, the art of cabaret can be summarized in just two words: Barbara Brussell. It's like I'm a fan of all that is excellent and true and honest and full of wonder and awe at life itself, and this is Barbara. She can be eclectic and New York and hip, and real and imperfect at the same time, and make you feel lost in the moment of her most earth-shattering revelations, and you never feel the remotest bit alien or other. You are a part of her private world, which is accessible and full of love. This brings mind to her latest show, fresh from its New York debut, "The Piano Bench of my Mind: Songs I Have Been Sitting on for Too Long." A show full of life and love and heart and soul, not to be missed and only to be ignored if you choose to avoid the greatest talent in cabaret today.
She started off with a very enchanting duet of songs, "Let's Love/Taking a Chance on Love," a loving start to a very intimate show. Barbara's rap is very personal and engaging, how you describe it? Like she is talking to a girlfriend in private, so sweet and innocently personal. This is the apex of cabaret, the mind-blowing singer who can reel you in to her own private world with a laugh and a story that is at once interesting and a journey of knowingness from which there is no return. Now you are part of the initiated. Now you know Barbara. Now you are part of an elite club who knows what it is like to be reached in the dark and known personally for all your flaws and intricacies. Brussell is not merely a talent, she is an experience, a revelation, a star. Now, if you don't believe me, go to her website (www.barbarabrussell.com) and read what the New York critics have to say. I'm not alone in my regard for this artist. I just dare to say what most people who have seen her already know: she is a genius at communicating and acting a song. There, I said it. Is it so hard to believe there are geniuses among us?
Her show speaks to the genius inside all of us, if we are present enough to listen. It's not just a string of songs connected by mindless banter, but a vision of life as we know it, or as we'd like to know it, full of radiant love and connectedness with other like-minded human beings. Oh, if the world could only be as Barbara sings it. Isn't that why we go to a show, to be whisked away into another world, one that we wish to be a part of? To enumerate the songs is to miss the point, it's like telling of the brush strokes in a painting: it's the whole picture you want to recall. But I will regale you with highlights such as "And This is my Beloved" (awesome and memorable) and comedic turns such as "The Heel" (hilarious). Barbara's choices are right on target and hand-picked for the overall effect of creating a mood of love and joy and laughter. If you are not in this place when you arrive, you will be there by the time you leave. Her essential self is portrayed in her talking, so inimitable as to make you realize you are in a special place: her audience. This is already too much, and you can hardly believe such accolades, but I go on record when I say that in cabaret, this is as good as it gets. Go see her like you would have seen Garland and tell her Gina Zollman sent you. If this was Japan or Germany she'd be a national treasure. Powers that be, listen up!