Jessica Molaskey, with whom I recently shared a microphone, opened last night at the Algonquin. I wasn’t there, but I have vivid and indelible memories of her first Algonquin opening, which I covered
last year in my Washington Post column:
I’ve had an eye on Jessica Molaskey ever since she sang her first cabaret gig, so I knew what it meant when she made her debut in January at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel–and blew the roof off. I’ve seen my share of big-deal Algonquin debuts, including Diana Krall’s very first Oak Room appearance, and I’m here to tell you:
This one was that good.
Molaskey is a Broadway baby (formerly of “Crazy for You” and “Dream”) who, like other musical-comedy artists of her generation, was finding it hard to land decent parts in the dance-driven, rock-flavored shows that now dominate the New York stage. Instead of tearing her hair out, she decided to look for another way to make a living. Molaskey happens to be married to jazz singer-guitarist John Pizzarelli, so she started off sitting in at his New York gigs. Bit by bit she cracked the code of cabaret singing, gradually figuring out how to work a small room. She grew more self-assured with each appearance–and more people started to notice.
At long last, the Algonquin got the message and booked her for a week, backed by her husband on guitar, brother-in-law Martin Pizzarelli on bass, and Larry Goldings, one of Los Angeles’s top session men, on piano. Talk about seizing the day: Molaskey tore into her first set as if she’d been singing cabaret in the cradle. Her singing was warmly inviting, her interpretations subtle, her patter super-sly, her pacing infallible. The first-nighters were wowed by her medley of Cy Coleman’s “Hey, Look Me Over!” and “Big Spender,” which she followed with a string of tried-and-true standards (“Make Believe”) and where-have-I-heard-that-before surprises (“Stepsisters’ Lament”), and by evening’s end it was perfectly obvious that high-end cabaret in Manhattan had found itself a New Face of 2005….
This time around Molaskey will be accompanied by John, Martin, and Larry Fuller on piano (Ray Kennedy’s trio is subbing for the Pizzarelli group on June 22 and 29). The show is called “After Midnight” and features a canny blend of standards (“Glad to Be Unhappy,” “Happy as the Day Is Long”) and new songs by such smart young things as Jason Robert Brown, Ricky Ian Gordon, Adam Guettel, and Michael John LaChiusa.
Alas, I can’t make it. I’m still coughing a bit too loudly to be companionable this week, and I’ll either be out of town or sitting in an aisle seat during the rest of the run. Go and tell me how terrific it was. I won’t mind–much–if you rub it in.
Molaskey will be appearing at the Oak Room through July 1. For more information, go here.