It is the story she tells — interspersed between the many songs, in different styles — that wins you over. Noll was a backstage kid of the concert hall variety, her father being a conductor and her mother a soprano. But Christiane grew up singing and memorizing show tunes, performing them in the kitchen for her assembled stuffed animals. She had unrestricted access to every cast album in captivity —her father's day job was as a music executive at CBS — and she took full advantage. She still does, it seems; her act includes snippets from "The Golden Ram" and "The Black Swan." "The Golden Ram" is a sub-mediocre song from the Richard Rodgers-Martin CharninTwo by Two, which Noll borrows to give us a wild lampoon of the song's original singer, Madeline Kahn. "The Black Swan" is the grand and haunted aria from Gian-Carlo Menotti's The Medium. Atypical nightclub fare. Anyone who walks into a nightclub before paying customers and is brave enough to sing either or both of these is okay in my book. Ross Patterson is the musical director, the act was directed by Bill Castellino.
Through the course of Gifts, we get to meet and appreciate Ms. Noll, who earned a Tony nomination in Ragtime — she was really very good, remember? — and who also managed to hold her own in the shambles of Chaplin. As you see, I need no longer associate her with that other musical.
(Steven Suskin is author of "Show Tunes," "The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations," "Second Act Trouble," the "Broadway Yearbook" series and the "Opening Night on Broadway" books. He also pens Playbill.com's Book Shelf and DVD Shelf columns. He can be reached at Ssuskin@aol.com.)