Sunday, September 09, 2007

Get on the Judy Train

Before it's too late, hurry down to the Plush Room and get yourself a ticket for Judy Butterfield's new show, "How Long Has This Been Going On?" Pretty soon she might be a star and you'll never have a shot at getting this up close and personal with her. Better yet, bring some friends, and you can all be stunned by the artistry of cabaret's new wunderkind. Just 17 years old, Judy Butterfield has an assuredness and a stage presence that belie her tender years. More than that, she displays the kind of fearlessness that is vital to any true artist. She stands on stage completely confident in who she is and what she has to offer. She is, simply put, a budding star. What does she have to offer? Plenty.

Unlike most kids her age, Butterfield has fallen in love with the American songbook. She sings tunes from George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Jermore Kern, Rodgers and Hart and others. She begins the evening with "Skylark," delivering a lovely version of that haunting song and closes with a Curtis Mayfield tune, "Please Find Me Someone To Love." Along the way, she makes two stops, one for Dylan's "It Ain't Me, Babe" and the Beatles' "If I Fell." But other than those three numbers, the playlist was almost entirely from the 20s, 30s and 40s. (But I must admit, I think the Dylan and Beatles numbers were my favorites of the evening -- she did what a true artist does: helped me to experience the familiar in a fresh way.)

The show itself is well put-together; her patter is funny without trying too hard to be funny, just personal enough, and draws you through the evening in an elegant, economical manner. It's really a terrific show.

My only criticism is that when Butterfield is being gentle with a song, she can have a a pitch problem or two. But that will fade as she gains experience. Besides, her pitch and tone are lovely when she's really singing out.

I can't wait to see how Butterfield develops as an artist; it will be fascinating to see her again in five or six years. Depending on the course she takes with her career however, that could be at the Oak Room in New York, on a Broadway stage, or even an arena. The girl's got a lot going for her.

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