The high point of Liz McCartney’s powerful evening of cabaret — in the Norwegian Dawn’s Spinnaker Lounge — came after McCartney thought her hour-long show had ended. As the audience, now on its feet, continued to applaud, Taboo producer Rosie O’Donnell came on stage and insisted that McCartney perform her show-stopper from that Boy George musical, “Talk Amongst Yourself.” Unfortunately, McCartney’s accompanist didn’t know the arrangement, but McCartney’s assistant quickly scrambled and found the music track, so McCartney was able to sing along with the pre-recorded music. McCartney delivered the song passionately, and it was equally as moving to watch O’Donnell, who was seated onstage, react so powerfully to a song she has probably heard hundreds of times.
But, getting back to the beginning of the show. McCartney opened her concert with a comical ditty entitled “I’m Tone Deaf.” The song allowed McCartney to demonstrate a rangy soprano that I had not before heard from the singer. After welcoming the crowd, McCartney said that she had been preparing for her cabaret performance by listening to recordings of the singers she steals from, including Linda Eder, Patti LuPone, Barbara Cook, Christine Ebersole and Maureen McGovern.
McCartney, herself, possesses a strong, rich alto that she commands with ease. She then demonstrated a song she used to audition with, “You’re Gonna Hear From Me.” In fact, the singer-actress performed the song for Tommy Tune at an audition for Grand Hotel. “Afterwards,” said McCartney, “he yelled, ‘Fabulous!’ Of course, I still didn’t get the job.”
McCartney demonstrated more of her comic ability with the tune “It Must Be Him,” which was followed by the pop hit “Son of a Preacher Man.” McCartney delivered a spirited version of the classic tune that got the enthusiastic audience clapping along.
Brooke Elliott, who subbed for McCartney during her Taboo maternity leave, joined McCartney for a thrilling version of the Side Show anthem “Who Will Love Me As I Am?” It was, perhaps, the vocal high point of the show, as the singers tried to out-belt each other. What could follow that, this writer thought? The answer: the classic Judy Garland/Barbra Streisand medley of “Get Happy” and “Happy Days Are Hear Again.” After a great, campy rendition of “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia,” McCartney’s Taboo co-star, Euan Morton, joined her for a few Carpenter tunes, including “Rainy Days and Mondays” and “I’m on the Top of the World.” McCartney also shared what it was like backstage at Taboo — a cast that would break into the Act I Les Miz finale on occasion, and her spontaneous Chess duets with Morton. To give audiences a taste of the backstage antics, they performed a wonderful version of Chess’s “I Know Him So Well.” I’ve heard Morton sing on a few occasions, but there is an aching quality in his voice that it always extremely moving.
McCartney dedicated her next song, The Baker’s Wife’s “Meadowlark” to O’Donnell, and followed with “My Best Girl.” McCartney concluded her show with Billy Joel’s “I’ve Loved These Days.” Instead of leaving the stage for what she termed “that fake encore,” McCartney simply stayed put and spoke a bit about her father who was, ironically, a ship’s captain. McCartney said she could never comprehend how her father could leave his family three to six months out of every year, but after standing on her balcony the first night of the cruise, she finally understood. Her honesty made the sea medley that followed even more touching: “The Water Is Wide,” “Ship in a Bottle” and “I Could’ve Been a Sailor.”
As for the rest of the cruise, today was the first on dry land since Sunday. We stopped at Port Canaveral at 9 AM and were offered trips to various amusement parks. I chose the “Wet and Wild” water park, which had terrific slides and where I burned to a crisp. Tomorrow is Key West, and lots more sun block. And, the entertainment on the Norwegian Dawn is set to include Christine Ebersole and Billy Stritch at 9 PM and Seth Rudetsky’s Rhapsody in Seth at 10 PM. Stay tuned for more . . . And, of course, happy diva-watching!