By Tulis McCall
Helane Blumfeld is a woman on a mission. Having created a successful career for herself in the business world, most recently as SVP of Omni Channel Creative, she is now rediscovering her passion for performing. Her most recent show at Don’t Tell Mama was Call Me H, directed by Helen Baldassare, and Blumfeld is quoted describing it as “a show about blending borders between genders and celebrating the men who inspire me.” Not quite.
This is more a show about plain old being different and dancing to the tune of your own orchestra. All a person has to do is review the song list, and this point is perfectly clear.
When I Was A Boy by Dar Williams brings us back to that time of our lives when we were just kids running around topless in the summer, climbing tress and having adventures. Before we got separated into our genders. Piece of Sky from the movie Yentl is a challenge to us all to look beyond the sliver of sky that we can see from our windows (especially here in NYC). Blumfeld’s choice in music reflects her own life’s path and the friends she chose. Not My Father’s Son (by Cindi Lauper, the only female composer in the lineup) is the story of a childhood friend, Ernie. She continues her tribute to him with Philadelphia, from the movie of the same name.
Perhaps Blumfeld’s greatest strength is the selection of her material. Each song is unique and, unlike most cabaret shows, not from the “American Songbook”. Her life choices were (and I assume still are) not the usual. Blumfeld chose to be a single mother and serenaded her son with Moondance. Her marriage came later. On her wedding day she danced with her father to, That’s Life. Her brother was also cut of singular cloth and didn’t follow the dating path prescribed for a Nice Jewish Boy.
Bobby Peaco, Blumfeld’s accompanist and musical director, is nothing short of astonishing. Not only does he handle vocal backups but his playing is so sweeping that at times you think there is more than one person tickling those ivories. As well, he knows the value of a delicate touch that both supports and enhances each number. He is superb.
Blumfeld winds down out the evening with Sugar Daddy from Hedwig. She’s Always A Woman is Blumfeld’s anthem to herself. Man In The Mirror is a nod to how we see ourselves and where we have to look when we need inspiration to carry on. The evening closes with Sex Bomb during which Blumfield and Peaco have a party and rock out.
Blumfeld has a lot to say, and she is on the path to learning how to do that in a cabaret show. Her vocal range is not vast, and she would do well to step up her game with some serious coaching that will free her up to tell the stories she is discovering. The only other task at hand is to get herself back on the stage as soon and as often as possible. Blulmfeld is a pro on all fronts, and the more she returns to the stage the sooner the nerves will disappear and she will learn how best to use, and to listen to, her voice – the one with which she sings and the other one that has been guiding her all along. That journey has already begun.