New York Cabaret Review: JOHN KELLY (Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater)

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by Harvey Perr on October 18, 2012

in Theater-New York


When John Kelly descends into the regions of darkness, he does so with a soaring intensity that is intoxicating and never depressing. In his new cabaret act at Joe’s Pub, Kelly – in a tight dark jacket, its lapels often clinging to his neck; and a kilt made of black leather strips, providing a flash of those elegant dancer’s legs – makes stillness itself an art form and takes us on a vibrant journey through the night, starting with “Holiday” by the Bee Gees and ending with Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home.”  The songs he has selected provide ample evidence of his eclectic tastes and artistic purity, and they include the work of Charles Aznazour and Edith Piaf, Donavan and the Incredible String Band, all performed thrillingly and studiedly.  John Kelly at Joe's Pub - New York Cabaret ReviewAnd when he throws in some bumps and grinds, Kelly is not one to bump it to a trumpet, but rather suggests how one might move in counterpoint to Delius or Mahler.  One misfire was his centerpiece – a musical setting of Baudelaire’s Metamorphosis of a Vampire, which seemed laboriously and painfully deliberate.  But spontaneity returned joyously in his encore songs: Joni Mitchell’s “California,” which evoked wistful memories of Paved Paradise, the electric show in which he channeled Ms. Mitchell; and Kurt Weill’s “Nana’s Song,” to which he brought a throbbing sensuality.  His most icily magic moment belongs to, of all esoteric choices, Rogers and Hammerstein, whose “(I Must Have Done) Something Good” provides Kelly with a chance to wink at his own persona.  Nobody interested in the art of cabaret can afford to miss John Kelly’s nearly-impeccable theatrical turn.

photos by Billy Erb

John Kelly
Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater
additional performances scheduled for October 28 and November 4, 2012
for tickets, visit (click on “Calendar”)

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