Kaye Ballard got down to business fast in her first set at the Studio One Backlot on Wednesday night. "Don't ask the lady what the lady did before," was her opening line, followed by "Ask what the lady's doing now."
It was a sentiment that dominated a high octane performance by the multi-talented singer/actress/comedienne. Ballard has always overflowed with talent--from her burlesque and vaudeville days to a continuing career in Broadway song and dance, from motion pictures to a role in the "Mothers-in-Law" television series.
But her absence from Los Angeles performing venues for the last decade has obscured--for Southland audiences, at least--her evolution into a consummate cabaret entertainer, a no-holds-barred mistress of musical satire.
In the best spirit of cabaret humor, Ballard took almost nothing seriously. A song that began with overlapping Sondheim-like introductions, quickly shifted into "I Won't Sing a Sondheim Song," a hilarious send-up of the current propensity among many nightclub singers to include at least one overcooked number by the Broadway master in every set.
She continued with an almost bewildering array of special material and standards. "My Son, The Stripper," a lament by the mother of a Chippendale's hunk was followed by pointedly satirical versions of Sixties folk music and Seventies country ballads.
A salute to the more senior members of the audience suddenly became "After 40 It's Patch, Patch, Patch," and Liber & Stoller's "Is That All There Is" received a newly sardonic set of verses.
Still running at full speed, Ballard launched into a wildly accurate set of impressions that ranged from Butterfly McQueen and Vanna White to young and old versions of Katharine Hepburn.
It was a brilliant showcase by a performer who never seemed to run dry.
Ballard continues at the Studio One Backlot through Sunday and next Thursday through Jan. 23 at 9 p.m.