Tonight: E. Faye Butler and her orchestra

e_faye_butlerToday I turned 30. Yikes!

And to celebrate, I’m taking advantage of my proximity to the Marriott Theatre (I work in Riverwoods) and making Gerald Metra it up here to join me in seeing one of my absolute favorite Chicago divas: E. Faye Buter (and her orchestra!)

E. Faye recently won a Jeff Award for her earth-shattering performance in last season’s Caroline, or Change. As I’ve said a million times before, her performance in that was among the best — if not THE best — performances I’ve seen on any stage. And she’s currently stealing the show as Motormouth Maybelle in Marriott’s production of Hairspray(read my review here).

I look forward to her solo act tonight. For a preview of what E. Faye (and her orchestra!) have in store, watch her on WGN-TV here.

EDIT (11.17): A Review!

E. Faye Butler is so warm, charming and confident behind a microphone and in front of her self-named orchestra (EFO, for short), it’s hard to believe last night was the debut of this solo show, entitled Just in Time.

Which makes me wonder: Is this “one night only event” just the start of something bigger?

They way she rips into the raunchy “Long John Blues” or earnestly belts out Barry Manilow’s “Weekend in New England,” you know you are seeing a real star and a true-blue performer.

Her performing along just a piano would be more than enough, but E. Faye doesn’t seem the type of woman who settles for merely “enough.” So: we were treated to a stellar eight-piece band (two trumpets, trombone, sax, bass, guitar, piano, and drums) that added pizazz to the proceedings. You should know that E. Faye is a remarkable band singer, especially when she scats.

Several people close to Ms. Butler were in the highly attentive audience, and boy were they vocal. “Sing it, E. Faye!” “Take your time, girl! Take your tiiime!” “Do your THANG!”

In fact, E. Faye had to instruct us white folks that it was okay to be vocal — she liked that.

Following a stirring, jazzy version of “Summertime,” she looked over in the audience at some important dude and slyly declared that as her “16 bars” for an upcoming production at the Court Theatre.

She talked about starring in one of the first non-traditional productions in Chicago as Dolly Levi. And when she popped up to make her entrance opening night, she heard a guy in the audience say, “Oh, I didn’t pay to see no damn n***.” She noted that she continued on with the performance that evening for the other 798 audience members, but “said a prayer for that poor guy so I wouldn’t kill him.”

Oh! And the tribute section to her mother, Elizabeth (where the “E” in E. Faye comes from) was beautiful. Ms. Butler told how her “star” died of breast cancer in 2007, and on her death bed, her mother requested that E. Faye go back that evening and perform (she was starring in Ella at Northlight Theatre at the time). And, though impossibly hard, she did it, as her mother said it would honor her in doing so.

E. Faye also explained her flowing purple outfit and gold shoes, as purple and gold were her mother’s favorite colors — they signified royalty. Then, she sang “My Buddy,” which she sang at her mother’s funeral. Some of her mother’s favorite Ella Fitzgerald tunes then followed.

The audience didn’t want her to leave. She really can do no wrong. Let’s hope E. Faye and the “EFO” come back very soon. And when they do, get your tickets!

“Sing it, E. Faye!”

E. Faye and her orchestra doing a sound check prior to last night's show (Courtesy of @LindleyRob)

Upcoming E. Faye news: Also mentioned in her show, she’s launching a new web site soon, so keep an eye out for that. She also noted that she’s set to star as Pearl Bailey at Northlight Theatre — I’m assuming as part of Low Down Dirty Blues, opening in Spring 2010.

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