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88's to the Nines

Earley_2 Ryan Black’s 88’s Cabaret, now comfortably ensconced at the Republic Restaurant in West Hollywood, celebrated its first anniversary with a star-studded gala presentation on Monday May 19. Black produces terrific supper-club style shows at this classy venue on the third Monday of each month.

Backed by the superb accompaniment of music director Neil Galanter on piano, Josh Doyle on drums, and Spencer Wright on bass, some 20 singers who have performed at Black’s past shows offered a wide variety of pop songs and show tunes. Picking favorites was no easy feat, yet it was hard to argue with the crowd’s frenzied approval for Sam Harris, who saluted last week’s news about the legalization of gay marriage in California, with his knockout rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” There was likewise widespread euphoria in the audience in response to the gifted Kevin Earley’s soaring rendition of “The Impossible Dream.” This guy’s glorious pipes sound more powerful all the time, and I’ve never heard this classic Man of La Mancha ballad delivered any better.

The dynamic Bets Malone, currently a sensation as Nancy in Oliver! in Fullerton, did a bravura job with “Goodbye Emil” and Valarie Pettiford’s knockout “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries” thoroughly convinced us the lyrics were true. Michelle Duffy tore into the lovely “Every Breath I Take” to electrifying effect, and the ever-engaging Jeffrey Landman provided great levity with the ironically funny “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park.” Keep up with news about Black’s fun-filled showcases at www.myspace.com/eightyeightscabaret. --Les Spindle

Photo: Kevin Earley

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