Karen Akers & musical director Don Rebic, by Maryann Lopinto


Karen Akers & musical director Don Rebic, by Maryann Lopinto

Karen Akers & musical director Don Rebic, by Maryann Lopinto

I have two questions for the lady.

Who does your hair? (Looks like a Sassoon disciple.)

I wouldn’t mind the phone number of your dentist either.

And this long-stemmed rose of a chanteuse – with the fabulous “do” and a pearly smile that goes on for days – stepped through the curtain at Urban Stages straight into our hearts.

We were privileged to be in the audience opening night of “Winter Rhythms,” Tuesday, December 4, when the beguiling Karen Akers did a rendition of a show she premiered in in 2009 at the Algonquin’s (dearly departed) Oak Room: “Anything Goes”: Karen Akers Sings Cole Porter.”

The iconic Akers, one of America’s most arresting and successful concert and cabaret stars, is renowned for a powerful instrument that combines pure tones with perfectly honed enunciation. And both remain undiminished whether the lady is belting or cooing. Professor Doolittle would have applauded every elegant turn of a syllable out of Akers’ mouth. She brings a whole new and better meaning to “Read My Lips.” And when the words belong to Cole Porter, that means none of the nuance, none of the rhymes within phrases, get lost at the party.

Akers’ show included some of Porter’s wordiest inventions such as “Come to the Supermarket in Old Peking.” And “Let’s Do It?” Well, fifty shades of double-entendres about gets it. And while we are on the subject of sex, there was one zany number about that legendary aphrodisiac, the oyster.

This fair lady had us all eating out of the palm of her hand.

(Look for Karen Akers doing the American Songbook at Lincoln Center this winter.)

Put together by Urban Stages’ founding artistic director (and part-time Telluride local) Frances Hill, in  association (for the past two years) with producer/director/lyricist Peter Napolitano, “Winter Rhythms” marks the fourth year Urban Stages has brought noted musical artists to its stage during the holiday season.

“Winter Rhythms” continues with nightly performances from dozens of The Great White Way’s brightest stars – including Julie Reyburn, Tony winner Adriane Lennox (“Doubt”) and Robert Cuccioli — through Friday, December 15, at Urban Stages, 259 West 30th Street.

Shows run the gamut from new musicals to jazz standards and salutes to favorite composers including Sinatra, Nat King Cole and more. With two performances each evening, there’s plenty of great cabaret entertainment to choose from. And it’s all for a great cause.

Proceeds from this critically acclaimed series helps  fund the theatre’s On Tour Outreach Program, bringing over 300 FREE “arts in education” presentations to libraries and schools.

“Urban Stages Outreach Department provides programming for ages 1 – 100, bringing theater across the five boroughs of NYC to 5000 people each year,” explained Hill. “There are three sections to our Outreach program: touring performances which travel to libraries/schools/community centers; Long term residencies in which we work with a specific group (Sunnyside Community Center, Florence E. Smith Senior Center, Green Chimneys LGBTQ Homeless Youth) to build theater skills and create performances; and a five-week intensive summer camp for youth ages 10 to 14.”

And when the music stops?

Since 1984, Urban Stages has functioned as a launching pad for new playwrights, offering the kind of critiques and exposure that allows them to move on to larger venues or get their plays published. In March, the venue opens Greg Kalleres’ “Honky,” a comedy that follows the lives of five people, white and black, as they navigate the murky waters of racism and commercialism.

photo credit: Maryann Lopinto

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