This review of Carol Shedlin's Romance In The Dark at Don't Tell Mama was written by Kathy Towson and published in Volume X, Issue 6 (2016) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Romance In The Dark
Performed by Carol Shedlin
Musical Direction (& Piano) by Jon Delfin
Bass Accompaniment by Boots Maleson
Don't Tell Mama (The Brick Room)
343 West 46th Street
New York, New York 10036
The evening began with Ms. Shedlin jumping right into "When Lights Are Low" (by Benny Carter & Spencer Williams) and she cleverly used lyrics about the band to introduce her band of Jon Deflin (the musical director) on piano, and Boots Maleson on bass, who would prove flawless and perfect accompaniment throughout the evening. Her years seemed to slip away as we were transported back in time when she recaptures the persona of a young (and sometimes "naughty" girl) inviting us to take a drive in the convertible, as she sings into the night air, or dances across the floor with some handsome beau under the pink lights, through renditions of "Sweet & Low Down" (by George & Ira Gershwin from Tip Toes), "Doin' The Low Down" (Jimmy McHugh & Dorothy Fields from Lew Leslie's Blackbirds), and "Out Of My Dreams" (by Rogers & Hammerstein from Oklahoma). She could even teach the young ladies of today a thing or two about how to truly capture being sexy, with nuanced subtle gestures that match the essence of the lyrics in "Close Your Eyes" (Bernice Petkere).
She painted a memorable picture of her early years and made me wish I was back in the day where young ladies did dress in crinoline petticoats, were taken to Fifth Avenue Tea Dances, and danced at The Plaza and to music on the phonograph - she shared in these stories a beautiful, elegant and simpler time, leading into "My Favorite Song" (by Mosse Charlap & Jack Gold) and "The Music Stopped" (by Jimmy McHugh & Harold Adamson from Higher & Higher), with a very smooth musical segway into "It Only Happens When I Dance With You" (by Irving Berlin from Easter Parade).
Her comedic abilities were very evident when she talked about dating an "older fella - all of 26" and that, although she was an astronomy student, she doubted whether it was truly the contemplation of the stars that were his priority when they went to the "park," leading into "No Moon At All" (by Redd Evans & Dave Mann). She then followed this in sequence with "But In The Morning, NO!" with some of her own new lyrics (very funny indeed) to this Cole Porter song. She also gave a very sultry rendition of "Street Of Dream" (by Victor Young & Sam Lewis) and took the entire audience down a beautiful, picturesque memory of dancing at the Glen Island Casino in a beautiful ballroom as the girl who never left the prom, leading into the timeless "Moonlight Serenade" (by Glenn Miller & Mitchell Parish). Given the length of the program, I would have cut the other numbers from the show.
On one end of the spectrum, there are cabaret performers whose careers are just beginning. They might be trying out new material and looking for the right mix of patter to put together a coherent show with an interesting storyline. On the other end of that spectrum are performers who are in the later years of their careers whose vocal abilities have changed but who still do shows because they love to perform before family and close friends who provide them with unlimited and uncritical love and support. Although I was impressed with the solid and believable connection Ms. Shedlin had to all her songs and wonderful stories, this sentiment was completely overshadowed by her vocal range, being unable to meet the challenges of her difficult selections, with the exception of her final song (and the title of the show), "Romance In The Dark" (by Lil Green), which suited her perfectly in tone and pitch. Although I felt the musical selections did not suit her voice, her enthusiastic friends and colleagues gave this "Grande Dame" a standing ovation.
Given the current state of her vocal abilities, I found myself hoping that, at some point in the future, Ms. Shedlin would create an entire non-musical evening of a more in-depth recalling of her full and fascinating life, since she is obviously the consummate story-teller, thereby playing more to her strengths as an actress than as a singer. Carol Shedlin shared the advice she received from the late Julie Wilson "over burgers at Joe Allen's." Ms. Wilson told her, "Do it for the passion and just have fun!", which is exactly what Carol Shedlin is doing with this show. There will be three more performances of Carol Shedlin's Romance In The Dark on Tuesday, April 12th, Monday, April 18th, and Thursday, April 21st, all at 7:00 p.m. Call 212-757-0788 for reservations 4-9 p.m. There is a $12.00 cover and two drink minimum. No credit cards accepted.