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Cabaret Review

Kellerman Balances Music and Message

March 10, 2001|DON HECKMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Sally Kellerman has made more than 60 movies, she noted Thursday in her opening set at Founders Hall in the Orange County Performing Arts Center. Yet, she added with a poignant shrug, "Everyone still thinks of me as Hot Lips," her career-defining role in the film "MASH."

But Kellerman's cabaret turn had a lot more to do with the skills of a multitalented musical entertainer than with an acting role from her early years. The program was loosely structured in the familiar story-of-my-life cabaret style, with Kellerman interspersing her songs with recollections of encounters with Marlon Brando, affection for younger men and sisterly partnerships.

But there was a striking disparity between the effectiveness of the songs and the scripted nature of her dialogue. Her ability to move easily and convincingly from the witty eroticism of "Don't You Feel My Leg" to the high drama of "Could I Leave You?" and the intimacy of "More Than You Know" was the work of an artist with a clear understanding of the balance between words, music and message. She was even better with a medley of works by female songwriters reaching across the decades from Carole King and Laura Nyro to Julia Ward Howe.

Kellerman's between-songs patter was less persuasive, in part because her charismatic presence tended to overwhelm the intimate connectivity essential to the cabaret art. "Sing more and talk less" is a motto she might consider.

* Sally Kellerman at Founders Hall, Orange County Performing Arts Center, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, today at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., Sunday at 1 p.m. $45 and $49. (714) 556-2787.

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