NY Cabaret Review: PHANTOMS OF THE CABARET (Artemisia LeFay)

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by Paulanne Simmons on July 3, 2023

in Concerts / Events,Theater-New York


With two cabaret shows under her belt, Ghosts of Weimar Past and Phantoms of the Cabaret, it’s easy to think Artemisia LeFay has an obsession with otherworldly beings. But at the beginning of the latter show, which she performed at Don’t Tell Mama last Friday June 30, she explains that these shows are “my attempt at leaving a legacy of homage to those who came before.”

Artemisia LeFay

The first performer she honored is Anita Berber, a German dancer, actress and writer who was the subject of an Otto Dix painting. Dix was a German painter best known for his depictions of society during the days of the Weimer Republic, a time when cabarets were noted for sexual experimentation and decadence. LeFay has similar preoccupations.

Artemisia LeFay and violinist Khullip Jeung

In LeFay’s performances, there are definite echoes of songstress Lotte Lenya, wife and muse of composer Kurt Weill; and actress, singer and gender bender Marlene Dietrich. Like Lenya and Dietrich, LeFay sings in several languages. But she also has a classically trained voice that easily reaches operatic proportions.

Artemisia LeFay

LeFay appears onstage dressed in a hip-hugging, strapless black dress, with elbow-length black gloves and makeup to match. She purrs, she teases, she belts. Her performance is enhanced by Renée Guerrero on piano and Khullip Jeung on violin. Her repertoire is made up of little-known cabaret songs and her own original numbers.

Quintin Harris with Artemisia LeFay

There are two songs from A Foreign Affair, Billy Wilder’s 1948 film set in post-WWII Berlin and featuring Dietrich as cabaret singer Erika von Schlütow: “Black Market” and “Illusions.” And there are two songs by Mischa Spoliansky, a Russian-born composer who wrote cabaret and revue songs during the time of the Weimar Republic: “I Am a Vamp” and “Sehnsucht,” variously translated as craving, desire, longing or yearning. LeFay’s original songs, “Coffin Built for Two” and “Phantoms of the Cabaret,” are in a similar vein. Jazz pianist/singer Quintin Harris came up for one number, an original called “Beatrix The Queen of Bones” which he co-wrote with Artemisia earlier this year.

Whatever LeFay is singing, her delivery is illuminated by her magnificent voice and commanding presence. She is a cabaret performer we should keep an eye on.

Pianist Renée Guerrero, Artemisia LeFay, violinist Khullip Jeung

photos by Hoyeon Choi
poster photo by Jerry Bezdikian

Phantoms of the Cabaret
Don’t Tell Mama, 343 West 46 Street
played June 30, 2023
for more info, visit Artemesia LeFay and Renée Guerrero

Otto Dix, Portrait of the Dancer Anita Berber 1925 (Frank Kleinbach)

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