March 29, 2014
Carol O’Shaughnessy, the doyenne of Boston cabaret, teamed with friend Diane Ellis, a former Bostonian, who has returned after 32 years in Las Vegas, and we all knew we would have to fasten our seatbelts. Both strong singers, Ellis more trumpet to O’Shaughnessy’s sultrier alto sax, they can both light up the stage, and belt to kingdom come on command.
Ellis’s Vegas background is a blessing and a curse. Her showmanship is sharply honed, but she will need to work on her connection to the material (she’s nearly there) to really sell the wistful and rarely sung “Girl Behind the Scenes.” But she had the chops to bring home such high-spirited anthems as “As Long As I’m Singin’” or “I Only Wanna Laugh,” which respectively opened and closed her solo set on a high note, as well as a telling point of view.
O’Shaughnessy was in top form throughout, but never more so than in her solo set, with a perfectly in-the-moment delivery of “Nobody Does It Like Me” (Seesaw), and a bull’s eye landing of “A Loud and Funny Song” (Oh, Brother!). But she turned on a dime and was riveting in the searing “The Music Went Out of My Life” (Legs Diamond), turning it into a three-act play.
Ellis and O’Shaughnessy had excellent support from the Tom LaMark Trio, with Jim Gwin excellent on drums throughout, and Mike Monaghan on various reeds offering a superb sax solo on Ellis’s ballad “Everything Must Change.”
The ladies offered duets at the top, the middle and the end of the show, with a half-time high point being the titular “Bosom Buddies” that became even more fun when Ellis’s lyric slip turned into a spontaneous in-character recovery. Playing off O’Shaughnessy’s cameo character, Mama Scugliachi, Ellis introduced her own North End matron Josephine Pascarella, to join Mama first in a some hilarious stand-up, but then occupying a park bench for a near heart-rending opening verse of “Hello, in There,” made even more poignant knowing that both Ellis and O’Shaughnessy work in an assisted living center. I would rather they had finished the song, than apologetically segue into the nevertheless sweet “Bella Notte.” But that is a mere quibble, when, otherwise, there is enough high-octane energy in their uptempo duets to power the next NASA space mission, as evidenced in their pairing of “Just a Coupl’a Sisters”/“Turn Up the Spotlight,” playing off their mutual Nunsense! experience, and their outrageously madcap opener, “That’s Entertainment.” And indeed it was.