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Paulanne Simmons

Barb Jungr Performs a Tender Tribute to the King

"Love Me Tender"
Barb Jungr
Brits Off Broadway
59E59 Theaters
59 East 59th St. between Park and Madison
June 29 thru July 2, 2006
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons June 29, 2006

The best thing about "Love Me Tender," Barb Jungr's fantastic cabaret show, which closed the 2006 Brits Off Broadway festival at 59E59 Theaters, is that Jungr pays tribute to the King but makes no attempt to look like, sound like or be Elvis.

"What would be the point?" she asks at the beginning of the show. Anyone can listen to his recordings or go see one of his numerous impersonators.

Having set the rules, Jungr proceeds to give her own brilliant interpretations, not only to Elvis favorites like "In the Ghetto" and "Love Me Tender," but also lesser known songs like "Tomorrow Is a Long Time," written for him by Bob Dylan.

Jungr has a voice that can shake the rafters or make one lean forward to catch every note. She's joyful, ironic, contemplative. The songs are set up with humor and intelligence. Jungr comments on the three big L's of existence: life, love and longing.

She also shares her own life with the audience (she was born in Rochdale, in northwestern England, the home of the legendary singer Gracie Fields, the best-paid performer of her time), gives advice on authors who provide a good read (mystery writer James Lee Burke) and goes into a long and fascinating explanation of panto, a British pantomime performed at Christmas, which includes a man dressed as a woman and ritualized audience participation.

Not all of Jungr's interpretations are equally successful. But some, like her renditions of "Peace in the Valley," "I Shall Be Released" and ""Always on My Mind," are absolutely breathtaking.

Jungr is accompanied by a superb pianist and accordionist known only as Charlie (his full name is Charlie Giordano), who hails from Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. As a soloist or sideman, he is one musician not to be missed.

Unfortunately, "Love Me Tender" only ran for four days at Brits Off Broadway. But Jungr says she appears often in New York City. Anyone who didn't get to see her show this time should not let such an awful mistake happen again.

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