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Cabaret Review (LA): Maura Hanlon at Sterling’s Upstairs at Vitello’s

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Maura Hanlon, a very talented singer who has played clubs and musical theatre for the past 16 years, returned to cabaret at Sterling’s Upstairs at Vitello’s on November 14th. Bob Remstein, who has worked with her throughout her career, accompanied her, and she was directed by Robert Marra of Los Angeles Musical Theatre.

She started with a compelling “Come Back to Me” and two jazz numbers, “Hit me With a Hot Note” and “Detour Ahead.” This was followed by a tribute to her husband Adam Smith, “Mr. Coronet Man” from Funny Girl, and two love songs, “Falling in Love With Love“ mashed up with “The Night It Had To End,” both extremely powerful numbers. Her encore was Sammy Fain’s “I’ll Be Seeing You,” a very heartfelt song for all the important people in her life.

The evening wasn’t all love songs and jazz standards though. She and her husband have been running a children’s entertainment business for years which now employs 16 aspiring actors. With the help of two friends she pulled from a trunk a complete clown outfit and then sang “Be A Clown,” all the while doing clown shtick and blowing up balloons in this very fun section of the show. Other highlights included a rewrite of “I Can’t Say No” where she laments her compulsion to help out others, and then a powerful rendition of “Just A Housewife” from Working which seemed all the more real because of her life story.

She concluded the show by bringing up on stage four backup singers she said were her soul sisters and were part of the singing group she founded. Together they performed a rousing ”Don’t Know Much.”

Many of the performers who have appeared on the Sterling’s Upstairs stage are really too young to tell us all about their life history, and proceed to sing their audition songs. This can be enjoyable but nothing like a thought-out act by a mature, loving, and personable star like Maura Hanlon Smith. Ms. Hanlon appeared at Sterling’s Upstairs at Vitello’s on Nov. 14th. I look forward to seeing her again.

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