A WHITING RETROSPECTIVE
Singer Margaret Whiting’s opening at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel’s Cinegrill on Wednesday night was tinged with deja vu, since the hotel had literally been the 60-year-old performer’s first home when she moved here in 1930 with her father, songwriter Richard Whiting.
But Whiting quickly made it clear she had no intention of simply recapping her memories of Hollywood’s golden musical days. Her highly eclectic program looked in all directions, with material that ranged from Whiting, Carmichael and Mercer to Sondheim and Holmes, from brassy show tunes to intimate love songs.
It would be hard to imagine a set that touched more bases, yet she brought it off with the amiable style and easy panache that seem intrinsic to her personality.
“Cock-Eyed Optimist,” “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” and “It Might as Well Be Spring” were pure acting jobs for Whiting, their identities as dramatic pieces always apparent.
In the songs directly associated with her career--"Moonlight in Vermont,” her father’s “My Ideal” and (especially) “Tree in the Meadow"--she allowed the songs themselves to take precedence, with her clear, well-focused musical lines varying barely a whit from the originals.
A richer allotment of the Whiting personality seemed available on the more contemporary material, especially Rupert Holmes’ “The People That You Never Get to Love” and the moody “That’s When We Were Young--in 1945.”
In fact, if there was a problem with Whiting’s performance it was that her straightforward musicality sometimes made her almost too respectful of the material she sang--especially the older songs. In her rush to be true to the songwriter, one suspects she sometimes forgets the needs of the singer.
As her new autobiography, “It Might as Well Be Spring,” reveals, she’s a feisty lady who has little patience for anything other than up-front honesty. It would be nice to hear a bit more of that feistiness in her on-stage performances, too.
Whiting continues at the Cinegrill through Jan. 31.