Mary Cleere Haran | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Mary Cleere Haran 

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Can a baby boomer be an authentic cabaret singer today, 50 years after all her best material was written? That's the challenge accepted by Mary Cleere Haran in her extremely entertaining act. Haran treads a very thin fine between arch attitude and authentic emotion as she sings such classics as Harold Arlen's "Old Devil Moon," the Gershwin brothers' campy-vampy "Lorelei," Rodgers and Hart's sentimental "Blue Room," Kurt Weill and Ogden Nash's witty "That's Him," and Cole Porter's "I Concentrate on You" (with a wry aside about Porter's "push-me-pull-you sexuality"), along with an occasional number like Burt Bacharach's "Alfie" ("this song was actually written in my lifetime"). Between tunes she throws in some cannily kooky patter--for instance, a very funny mock-Untoucbables scene in which a sultry chanteuse ridicules Eliot Ness. Her smoky, intimate voice, her sultry, Gloria Grahame-ish looks, her superb phrasing and use of body image, and above all her attention to visual and musical detail make Haran one of the most poised and professional young club singers to grace a Chicago stage in quite some time. If she still sometimes falls into the trap of self-consciousness and camp excess, be patient: God is not finished with her yet. Tonight and Saturday, Ruggles Cabaret Bar, Royal-George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted; 988-9000.

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