It would be hard to imagine a better cabaret combination than the elegant song stylings of chanteuse Karen Akers and the Art Deco pastels and pillars of the Hotel Roosevelt Cinegrill.
In her performance Friday night, Akers gave a convincing demonstration of how far she has come--musically and stylistically--since her last Los Angeles appearance a year ago. More comfortable with an audience, less monochromatic in her choice of songs, willing to take risks with unfamiliar material, the lean, high-cheekboned singer clearly has reached the top level of cabaret performance.
Akers' program made no easy concessions to cheap popularity. Many of the pieces--especially Stephen Sondheim's "The Miller's Son," "I Dreamed a Dream" (from "Les Miserables") and a mixed French and English version of "I Have a Love" and "Somewhere" (from "West Side Story")--were presented, appropriately and effectively, as art songs.
Akers moved comfortably from a torch-lit version of "How Long Has This Been Going On?" to an energetic romp through Billy Joel's "A Matter of Trust."
Her convincing mastery of both the language and the mise en scene of the international repertoire was dramatically showcased in a big-brassy interpretation of Noel Coward's "Twentieth Century Blues," a Marlene Dietrich-like medley of "Falling in Love Again" and "What'll I Do?" and an almost eerily accurate version of Edith Piaf's "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien. "
Akers was accompanied by an extraordinarily adroit quartet of musicians--Michael Abene on piano; Ken Wild on bass; Phil Feather on multiple woodwinds; and James Saporito on percussion--playing Abene arrangements that were masterful examples of clarity, precision and musical sophistication.
Akers continues at the Cinegrill through Aug. 8 with performances at 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, and at 9 and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.