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Vikki Carr at Feinstein's at The Regency

Date: 2000-06-21

We have often said that there is no such thing as being "too big for the room." Put performers like Mandy Patinkin, Betty Buckley, or Judi Connelli in an intimate cabaret space and they expand it to the size of their performance. A singer can, however, be overproduced for a room. Vikki Carr, who rose to fame in 1967 with the memorably overwrought pop hit "It Must Be Him," is now playing at Feinstein's at The Regency, but she isn't filling the room with her talent -- she's flattening it. The show appears to have been musically arranged for a massive orchestra that might play in a 1,500-seat theater, not a 140-seat cabaret club.

The singer only has a three-piece band backing her up, but don't let that fool you. Tow of her musicians play keyboard in an almost totally synthesized show, attempting to create the effect of a full orchestra. The result isn't so much an impressive wall of sound as it is a sonic disturbance, made worse by the decision to crank it up so that the act might be heard as far north as Albany and as far south as Charleston. We're talkin' loud! When Carr goes for a big finish -- which she does with stunning regularity -- it sounds as if she's singing inside a tin drum.

Carr has a booming belter's voice that sounds just as rich as it did back in the 1960s. Happily, she still sings "It Must Be Him" with the full-out passion that made a generation both laugh at and love the song. Those who only remember Carr for that emotional tour de force should be reminded that her career began to evolve as early as 1972, when she embraced her Latin heritage and released her first Spanish language album. Spanish songs figure prominently in her current act, but she also performs her classic pop hits "with Pen in Hand" and "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You."

If her voice soars, her patter dives. Carr talks about her life and career in between songs with very little panache. The only moments of true beauty in the show come whenever she starts a ballad accompanied only by a piano. The sound is beautiful, the interpretation is sincere, and we glimpse what Vikki Carr might be able to do in a less aggressive cabaret act.