“This is the first show I’ve done in my 13 years performing at Davenports that is perfectly themeless,” said the effervescent Joan Curto of her new cabaret show, This is New, which she premiered at Davenports Piano Bar this weekend (I caught the final show last night).
However, the show does indeed have a theme: Curto assembled an evening of songs she’s collected over the years that she’s always wanted to perform, but had never found the right opportunity. Lucky for us, she’s found that opportunity.
Curto is a Chicago cabaret icon, but because I don’t follow the cabaret scene as closely as I should, I only first discovered Curto in April when she blew me away with her big vocals and disarming stage presence at “Jim Caruso’s Cast Party.” And it’s taken me all these months to finally getting around to see her in her element.
The woman knows how to sell a song. While she kicks big belty numbers out of the park, such as her opener which artfully blended Irving Berlin’s “Let me Sing and I’m Happy” with Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s “The Song is You,” or Edith Piaf’s “Non, je ne regrette rien,” it was the quieter moments that won me over — particularly her stunning rendition of Billy Barnes’ “Have I Stayed Too Long at the Fair?” She also has a flair for comedy, prefacing the iconic Piaf power ballad about regretting nothing with the hilarious “I Regret Everything” by Bill Burnett and Peggy Sarlin.
Of course, a cabaret singer is only as good as their backup, and Beckie Menzie on piano and Mike Torti on sax provided expert musical accompaniment.
While I’ve been to Davenports several times, this is the first time I’ve gone to see a true-blue cabaret artist at the space, and it’s encouraging to see such support — the room was packed with Curto fans, and she seemed genuinely touched by the turnout. “Whenever I do a show, it’s like a party I’m hosting where I send out invitations and am never sure if the guests will actually show up,” she admitted before launching into her encore. “So thank you for showing up!”
She needn’t worry — I’m sure with talent like her’s the party will go on for some time. Plus, she has a new fan. Visit joancurto.com to find out where she’s playing next.