Talk about Purr-serverence!
Purrfect… Eighty years and going strong, Eartha Kitt has a voice and style that put her in a class of her own. Best known for playing the definitive Catwoman on the TV series Batman, her career has spanned stage and screen from films with Orson Wells in the 1950s to recent Broadway productions of The Wild Party and Nine. She’s even been the voice of Yzma in Disney’s animated film The Emperor’s New Groove.
Whatever the vehicle, hearing her rich earthy voice is like the feel of a velvet glove – classy, sexy, and never out of fashion. Her standing room only concerts at the Café Carlyle have recently seen her star on the rise once again. Now, this rare opportunity to hear Kitt with full orchestra offers Atlanta audiences a unique command performance, running the gamut from such early classics as “C’est Si Bon” and “Santa Baby” to powerful vocals in “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” and “Here’s to Life.”
Now turning a vibrant 80, Eartha Kitt continues to excite audiences everywhere to want to keep slipping sables under her tree.
Our show at Symphony Hall much resembled her current show in New York at the Carlyle:
Hey, Big Spender, This Purr’s for You (Especially if You’re 82)
Who else but that eternal femme fatale Eartha Kitt could announce with a straight face from the stage, “I may be 80, but I’m still burning,” and have it be partly true?
This was how Ms. Kitt followed her rendition of “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm,” on Tuesday in her opening night show at the newly renovated Café Carlyle. Actually, Ms. Kitt’s face was not so straight. During a show that found her prowling the stage in a dark red velvet dress, she was unable to contain her amusement at her gold-digger routine. Or as she said, widening her cat’s eyes into a ravenous stare and scouring a room filled with well-heeled patrons before breaking into a grin, “Je cherche un billionaire.”
Woe be the male ringside patron who becomes her cat toy for the evening, as she queries him in several different languages and coyly inquires about his financial status. If he is young, the chances are she will soon lose interest and suggest he introduce her to his father. In “Too Young to Be Meant for Me,” one of her wittiest songs on Tuesday, she impatiently brushes off a 20-year-old admirer and tells him not to wait: “Can’t you see I’ve got a date with someone rich and 82?”
It is fascinating to watch the flickers at the corners of Ms. Kitt’s lips and eyes during these audience questionnaires. The peevish scowl of an arrogant siren who has been through this ritual a thousand times can suddenly turn into the cunning grin of a carnivore about to pounce on a juicy morsel of filet mignon.
The gold digger is just one aspect of this performer with many layers. “Everything Changes,” the centerpiece of her new show is a sweet, fatalistic lament with music by Brian Feinstein and lyrics by Diana Hansen-Young that she introduced last year in the Off Broadway musical “Mimi Le Duck.” Ms. Kitt shed several layers of armor to play an aged bohemian whose famous friends and lovers have all died. Her haunted performance of it on Tuesday evening put the final coat of polish on a song that suggests “Memory” from “Cats,” but with famous names dropped, including Picasso and Sartre.
For a music critic the extensive renovation of the Café Carlyle promises much. The room is brighter and airier without having lost its cozy elegance. The raised ceiling has improved its muffled acoustics, which are further enhanced by the installation of a modern sound system. Ms. Kitt’s band (Daryl Waters on piano, Jon Burr on bass, Joseph Friedman on guitar, Brian Grice on drums and Carlos Gomez on percussion) had noticeably more bite than the past, and Ms. Kitt’s voice was in full growl.
Sing it, Baby!