Yael Rasooly

January 17, 2019 | By

In her show Glamour in the Dark, Israeli singer-actress Yael Rasooly, joined by accordionist Iliya Magalnyk, offered a glimpse into an almost other-worldly and very international cabaret experience. The evening had a theatrical feel, with Rasooly entering onto the stage slowly singing “La Vie en rose” (Louiguy, Marguerite Monnot, Édith Piaf) to discover—as if for the first time—Magalnyk, who had just finished a marvelous accordion solo of “Domino” (Louis Ferrari). The song, itself, was highly theatricalized, with the second verse comically sung in an Americanized pronunciation of the French lyric and with some staccato coloratura thrown in. As strange as that may sound, it did serve to immediately inject a bit of comedy into the show, illustrating that, no matter what the language, music and laughter are universal.

Sung in English and Yiddish, “I Love You Much Too Much” (Alexander Olshanetsky, Chaim Tauber; English lyric by Don Raye) showed a great rapport between Rasooly and Magalnyk. And Rasooly displayed marvelously descriptive colors of voice within the Yiddish. And “Padam, padam…” (Norbert Glanzberg, Henri Contet) was both educational (as to the possible meaning of “padam”) and technically impressive, with a sustained messa di voce at the final note.

Trumpeter Rafael Castillo-Halvorssen was summoned from the audience to sit in with Rasooly and Magalnyk on “Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me” (Arthur Swanstrom, Charles R. McCarron, Carey Morgan), which created an early 20th century French saloon atmosphere that was fun; it received rousing applause.

After another beautiful accordion solo by Magalnyk, which was extremely virtuosic, and, dare I say it?, even sexy (who knew the accordion could be sexy?), Rasooly took the stage and sang, in Hebrew, the Argentinian song “Alfonsina y el mar” (Ariel Ramírez, Félix Luna; Hebrew lyric by Ehud Manor) with just the right amount of intensity for a woman who is about to walk into the sea. This was followed by “Non, je ne regrette rien” (Charles Dumont, Michel Vaucaire) in which she interpolated Bizet’s Habanera (from Carmen).

After those two down-tempo songs, a change in tone was called for. Accordingly (or should I say “accordion-ingly”?) Rasooly and Magalnyk gave us “Busy Line” (Murray Semos, Frank Stanton) and “Bei mir bist du schön” (Sholom Secunda, Jacob Jacobs), which lightened the mood nicely.

Rasooly ended with “La Foule” (Ángel Cabral, Michel Rivgauche), having four volunteers from the audience act out the story line of the song as she narrated in English. A very funny device for making the lyric clear to the English-speaking audience. But I was surprised when she then dismissed her volunteers and proceeded to sing the song. I think a better comic choice would have been to let them attempt to act out their “rehearsal” as she sang in real time.

The show was fun. And, sung in English, French, Hebrew, and Yiddish, it really had an international feel. Indeed, Rasooly has performed in more than 28 countries. And, while she invited us into her world as spectators of this theatrical experience, for the most part, I felt rather “sung at” than “sung to.” I would have appreciated a little more personal connection to the text and, therefore, to the audience (more her coming into our world), which I believe is the most important aspect of the cabaret performance style in the U.S. To be sure, the show was technically flawless, entertaining, and even educational. It had a sort of jazz sensibility, where the story-telling is accomplished more through the music than with the lyric. It is perhaps because Rasooly is so strong a performer that I wanted to know more about her, her story, and her personal connection to the lyric. This show did not offer that—but I do look forward to seeing that show!

Glamour in the Dark
Laurie Beechman Theatre – January 9, 13, February 2

Category: Reviews

About the Author ()

David Sabella enjoys a successful and varied career. As a performer, he's appeared on- and off Broadway—most notably in the 1996 revival of "Chicago"—and in cabaret; in 2018 he received the Outstanding Performer in a Lead Role award for his work in "The Phillie Trilogy" at the Fresh Fruit Festival. In classical music, he was a winner of the Luciano Pavarotti International Voice Competition and the New York Oratorio Society Competition, and he has performed leading roles throughout the US and abroad. As an educator, he served as President of the New York Singing Teachers Association (2008-2014) and has been published in the Association's journal, and he has served on the faculty of several prestigious universities. He's the author of the forthcoming "So You Want to Sing Cabaret" (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).

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