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Paulanne Simmons

Barb Jungr's "River" Will Move You

Performed by Barb Jungr
Café Carlyle The Carlyle Hotel, 35 East 76th Street at Madison Ave.
Feb. 26 to March 6, 2010 Thurs. thru Sat. 10:45 p.m.
Music Charge: $35, $50 & $75 (VIP seating).
(212) 744-1600 or www.thecarlyle.com
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Feb. 26, 2010

Barb Jungr. Photo by Steve Ullathorne.

English cabaret sensation Barb Jungr, already a staple at the Metropolitan Room, returns to the Café Carlyle at the Carlyle Hotel with her London-based music director Simon Wallace for a two week engagement that launches her new show, "River."

The songs Jungr has chosen come from all times and places yet sit together quite comfortably. It may seem an enormous leap from Hammerstein and Kern's melancholy ballad, "Old Man River" to Al Green's bluesy "Take Me to the River." But Jungr's depth of emotion and vocal range are more than equal to the task.

"What I want to do always is to get a collection of songs that take people on a journey and bring them somewhere they didn't expect to end up and leave them smiling and happy and having touched something," Jungr said via e-mail.

Many of the composers featured in the new show are familiar Jungr choices. But there are also many new songs in her repertoire, such as Hank Williams' "Lost on the River" and Percy Mayfield's "The River's Invitation." While some of the songs have obvious river themes, others present something of a challenge for those with a more literal mind.

"Part of the trick is to find the river, even if it's metaphorical," Jungr conceded in her opening night performance on February 26. Indeed bodies of water have a romantic quality of longing that is felt rather than observed. David Gates' Everything I Own" has no river in the lyrics but, said Jungr, "as much water as you can get into a river."

The relationship between tears and water is as old as poetry, something Jungr fully understands. "I'm a great fan of the ballad. And I'm a great fan of the songs that make you cry," Jungr said after a glowing rendition of Ray Davies' "Waterloo Sunset."

Barb Jungr. Photo by Steve Ullathorne.

If her songs tend toward the melancholy, Jungr is nothing but ebullient. She confides slyly that she's not singing Judy Collins' exact lyrics in "My Father" but hopes no one in the audience will tell the singer/songwriter. She introduces Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne" by describing a friend who has an uncanny ability to pick out the nut job in a room filled with healthy women.

Whatever the selection, Jungr makes every song fresh, unique, and filled with insight and passion. "Its like they are in a box and you take them out, and some of them want to be polished and sung, and if you do it right, they sparkle and shine," Jungr says. "It's a going in rather than a reaching out."

Jungr, who in London plays mostly in concert circles, says she loves the sound and feel of a concert hall. But she also finds supper clubs wonderful and the Carlyle particularly thrilling.

"I am excited and honored to be on the boards that so many other fab performers have trodden. It means a lot to know Minnelli and Cook and Stritch have been here - and of course, Bobby Short."

Jungr sees herself singing someday in Rome, Tibet, China. In the meantime, she just hopes she gets better and better at what she does. "I sing and I tell stories, and if, at the end of it all, I can be the best singer and storyteller that it's possible for me to be, then that'll be fine."

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