Vaux de Ville: A Review of the Jackie Smook De-Dumbification Program

Jackie Smook in Davenports/Photo: Jenny Baumgartner

Boy can Jackie Smook sing legitimately. She delivers the twelve arias in her cabaret to a singer, a piano and several puppets. Smook resurrects exciting but overlooked vintage show tunes, sometimes sung as written and sometimes slightly rewritten to fit its script. The pastiche begins with the almost operetta-like 1932 “Should I Be Sweet” from Tin Pan Alley mainstay Vincent Youmans (most famous for “Tea for Two”), and we know right away it won’t be. an evening of world weariness. , a comically ironic cabaret of a woman of a certain age and vocal knots. Smook’s show is more of the wide-eyed groping variety with a big heart and a delicious voice. The wraparound narrative of Smook’s stage character also plays like “A Chorus Line” for kids (but no dancing) in which a few scoldings and harsh encouragement from the teachers – the puppets – inspire him to make the best of it. part of his talents.

Smook’s vocals, puppets, voice characterization, and assaults have a vaudeville veneer to them. Still, but for a few swear words, Smook’s writing and stage persona are so light that it only gives us her charm and songs. That’s enough for an entertaining evening, but…taking up those pedagogical reprimands…Jackie Smook, your great talent deserves better! The magic of Smook’s musicality is also made possible by the skillful accompaniment of Chicago composer and improviser Joey Chimes.

The approximately one-hour show with a ticket, plus the two mandatory drinks and tip, can add to the price of a Broadway ticket. Smook and Chimes are worth it thanks to excavated and more familiar tunes, including the upbeat “High is Better than Low” from 1963’s Mary Martin vehicle “Jennie”, 1969’s “The Bravest Individual” from “Sweet Charity” and Sondheim’s lovely 1981 ballad “Goodbye For Now” from the movie “Reds.”

“The Jackie Smook Program of De-Dumbification” plays one night a month until June: 8 p.m. on Saturdays February 4, April 2, May 7 and June 4 and late night March 5 at 10:30 p.m. $20 plus two drinks minimum. Davenport Piano Bar and Cabaret, 1385 North Milwaukee, davenportpianobar.com.

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