Laura Benanti Shows Classic and Comic Chops at Cabaret

What’s more, she didn’t mind calling out a couple of loud, rude audience members while doing it.

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Clad in a chic black jumpsuit and statement necklace, Tony Award–winner Laura Benanti took the stage Thursday night at The Cabaret at the Columbia Club to warm applause, her talented pianist and arranger Todd Almond at her side. She immediately worked her way through the Jerome Kern/Johnny Mercer classic “I’m Old Fashioned,” politely pulling an iPhone out of her bra to take a selfie with the crowd behind her. “I’m going to tweet that,” she said, setting the tone for the evening.

One of the best moments of the evening came early on as she started into a brilliant mash-up (by Almond) of two pop-music nuggets, Ellie Goulding’s “Starry-Eyed” and Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games.” As she began that, her third number on the night, a quartet of septuagenarians discussed their meal quite loudly, prompting Benanti to take a page from former co-star Patti Lupone’s book and ask, “Can you guys hear me? Because I can hear you. Is everything okay? I can come to your job tomorrow and talk.” Two songs later, she showed humility and self-awareness in the moment by asking the audience, “Are we okay? Have you forgiven me?”

» MORE: Video—Reasons to See Laura Benanti Live

Artistically, Benanti walks that line of old-fashioned and modern gracefully. A self-proclaimed musical-theater obsessive, she worked her way through a few decades of musicals, taking on numbers from My Fair Lady‘s “On the Street Where You Live” to Nine‘s “Unusual Way,” briefly (re)inhabiting the role of Claudia that she performed in the show’s Broadway revival. She left the Cabaret crowd wanting more, showing off her classical talents with “All Things Bow,” also written by Almond. Not to take away from her classical chops, which are prominent and powerful, but the moments where she revealed her soul to the audience were based in those more pop-friendly ballads, like Joni Mitchell’s “He Comes for Conversation.” I selfishly believe her next project should consist of Joni Mitchell covers.

My lone critique from the evening was that it was all too brief. Her lack of “Model Behavior” mixed with those amazing vocals could have used a second act.

Note: Shows for Friday and Saturday are sold out.

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