Julie Wilson

Julie Wilson Live (From the Russian Tea Room)

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Julie Wilson takes a break from making songbook albums and turns in a varied live set drawn from a performance at the Russian Tea Room, which sits next door to Carnegie Hall on West 57th Street in Manhattan and boasts a small upstairs cabaret space. If there is any theme to the show, it is a slightly autobiographical one, as Wilson begins with an uptempo reading of the usually languid "Sentimental Journey," mentioning her hometown of Omaha in passing, then tells the audience that she got her start as a band singer and proves it with a medley of "Mean to Me," "The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else," and "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan." The trip down memory lane quickly becomes mixed with the lives of others, however, particularly some of her favorite songwriters, especially Cole Porter, whose obscure "The Tale of the Oyster" (from his first successful musical, Fifty Million Frenchman) proves to be a perfect piece of special material. Wilson also shines a spotlight on lesser known but deserving writers such as Steven Lutvak ( "Inside My Body Is a Dancer" ), Charles DeForest ("He's the Kind of Man"), and her old friend, the late Peter Allen ("All the Lives of Me"), choosing songs that could have been written for her mature, sophisticated persona. The same could be said for two songs by Carolyn Leigh and Cy Coleman that come toward the end, "Hey Look Me Over" (from Wildcat and usually taken at a march, but done as a slow ballad here) and "Don't Ask a Lady" (from Little Me), which spoofs an aging vamp, or rather, allows Wilson to spoof herself. It stood to reason that while assembling albums and shows devoted to certain major songwriters, she also would have amassed a collection of gems by minor (and not so minor) ones; they amount to one of her more enjoyable acts.

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