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Natalie Douglas – Stevie Songs: The Songs of Stevie Nicks & Stevie Wonder – The Pheasantry

by Admin on Monday, 22 May, 2017

Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩

Larger than life and with a husky warm glow of a voice that defies an audience not to fall in love with her straight away, Natalie Douglas’ Pheasantry debut was a delight.

The multi award-winner came across the Atlantic for this three-day visit with Stevie Songs, showcasing the writing talents of American icons Stevie Nicks and Stevie Wonder.

Time to come clean about the Fleetwood Mac vocalist, a lady often referred to as the ‘Queen of Rock‘n’Roll’ and a singer-songwriter with a huge list of hits in both spheres to her name. She just passed me by.

I now know, because they featured in Douglas’ 15-song, 90-minute set, that Nicks penned ‘Gold Dust Woman’, ‘Silver Springs’, ‘Dreams’ (Fleetwood Mac’s only US No.1), ‘Landslide’, ‘Rhiannon’ and ‘Leather and Lace’.

Douglas duetted with husband Billy Joe Young on the last one, although the poor chap could barely get a look-in against such a powerhouse partner who could make the Albert Hall shake, never mind this intimate cabaret room.

A Crazy Coqs regular since 2012, Douglas quickly made an impact at her new home, even as far as singing barefoot in the Chelsea cabaret room – a very upmarket basement as The Pheasantry is a Grade II listed building originally used to rear pheasants for the Royals.

With a giggle never far away and a fund of tales to tell (in fact, some linking material rambles a bit and could do with a polish, particularly stories about people unfamiliar to a London audience), the Douglas versions of three contrasting Wonder numbers were the pick of the session.

The slow ballad ‘All In Love Is Fair’ was a triumph of pacing and phrasing, ‘Happy Birthday’ (written in support of a campaign to have the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr become a national holiday) livened things up, and ‘The Secret Life of Plants’ “was so weird we had to put it in!”

It would be remiss not to mention the dazzling, highly energetic piano of musical director Brian Nash, a brilliant operator who acted as backing singer as well. James Kitchman’s guitar completed the group on a very happy evening.

Jeremy Chapman

TheaterPizzazz Review
Natalie Douglas - Stevie Songs: The Songs of Stevie Nicks & Stevie Wonder - Birdland Jazz Club
by Brian Scott Lipton September 12, 2017

Natalie Douglas, a New York cabaret stalwart originally from LA, calls New York City’s Birdland jazz haven her artistic home base. The charming Jim Caruso noted in his introduction to “Stevie Songs: The Music of Stevie Nicks & Stevie Wonder” that this was Douglas’s 50th performance on the Birdland stage. She’s a familiar, the room loves her, the warmth is genuine. She has earned her place, and has taken that freedom to assemble a mashup of tunes by two artists important to her with vastly differing styles who shared the airwaves (back when we talked about artists on the “airwaves”) during her youth. Douglas brought us into her rec room where she sang along with a mix tape of her favorites, with a sound that evoked that experience to uneven success.

Her enjoyment in recalling the feeling behind the set list is palpable and personal. “These are the sounds of the soundtrack of my childhood and my adolescence” she told us. But the show is uneven on a few counts. The Stevie Nicks tunes suffer most as they don’t survive the nostalgia factor. Those who already appreciate “After the Glitter Fades” and “Silver Springs” and “Leather and Lace” (on which she was joined in a duet by her husband Billy Joe Young who she lovingly describes as “the cutest boy in every room”) and “Gold Dust Woman” and “Rhiannon” will sway and sing along under their breath, indeed. But the tunes are not that tonally or lyrically interesting, and the band, led by musical director Brian Nash on piano, doesn’t assist in communicating why anyone would really be moved by any of the Nicks portion of the program. The 1970s Top 40 smooth and over-pedaled keyboard and overloud and muddy percussion (Joe Choroszewski) in particular hurt the cause. The tribute band assemblage of monotonously similar Nicks tunes failed to move me, as they almost always fail to move me, and the musicians don’t make something new with the material.

The Stevie Wonder songs, on the other hand, offer varied melodies and lyrics, and some sweetly effective performances. Lyrics resonate, melodies and styles vary, and I found myself surprised that Wonder had crafted some particular tunes. Douglas gives “All in Love is Fair” a sweet Karen Carpenter unadorned and enchanting vocal treatment. And while the band had nowhere near the funk required for the Wonder tune “Tell Me Something Good” we know as performed by Chaka Kahn, Douglas had such great fun performing that we all went with her. While the “funk-challenged” band could have deep-sixed “You Haven’t Done Nothing,” the political timely resonance of the lyrics raised the performance of a tune we are reminded was released around the time of President Nixon’s resignation – “we are amazed but not amused.” The encore of Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” has its own delightful contemporary political resonance, used in recent Democratic political contests, brought a smile to the face, yet was a performance opportunity lost. This might now, especially after a long act of tonally similar Nicks tunes interspersed in the line-up, be a sing-along tune rather than a seated and passively received musical experience.

Douglas has a marvelous stage presence and a delightful vocal instrument, and crafted a mildly entertaining mix-tape evening, complete with inter-tune patter. We learned what the songs meant to her as nostalgia. What she and her band did not achieve at this point with this show is the sound and the story related to these particular tunes to allow us in the audience to feel more than the experience of a long car trip mix tape experience with a failing speaker system.

Stevie Songs: The Music of Stevie Nicks & Stevie Wonder took place Monday, September 5 at 7 pm at Birdland (314 West 44th Street). Tel: 212.581.3080.


Natalie Douglas – Hello Dolly: The Music of Dolly Parton – Crazy Coqs

by Admin on Thursday, 6 November, 2014


Natalie Douglas performs her show Hello Dolly: The Music of Dolly Parton at the Crazy Coqs, London until 8 November.

The whole concept of Natalie Douglas’ show intrigued me from the start – two buxom ladies, both having spent time in America’s south, and both lovers of blues and country music, but in other ways very different. Parton – petite with a sweet, high-pitched country twang, and Douglas – a lady with a huge voice and known, certainly here in London, for bringing us jazz, blues and her own take on the songs of singers such as Nina Simone.

Douglas, though, is an assured vocal musician and a trained actress. I had every confidence this show would work, and she does not disappoint. She opens with Parton’s anthem ‘Coat of Many Colours’ on the familiar theme of material poverty, but a home rich in love, which is echoed later in the evening with ‘Rocky Top’ (Felice & Boudleaux Bryant).

Parton’s own songs are juxtaposed with other work she covered, sometimes with artists such as Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt on Neil Young’s ‘After the Gold Rush’, and the wonderful ‘Here You Come Again’ (Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil).

Douglas’ intelligent re-working of Parton’s continually heard and arguably overplayed songs, together with her rich deep vocal tones in ‘Jolene’, and her stunning arrangement of ‘I Will Always Love You’, compel us to connect with the material with a new visceral intensity. We hear meanings and draw perceptions totally anew. The starkness of either a single instrument, or sometimes two with Shanna Sharp’s guitar, accompanying the honeyed yet powerfully resonant voice that belongs to Douglas, suits the simplicity of the material so well, it is a wonder that amplified and more heavily produced versions are made at all.

Standout numbers are difficult to choose in this universally excellent programme. Some of the more unusual items however are the touching and resolute ballad ‘I Just Might’, re-launched by Parton as a solo after its success in her musical Nine to Five where it was featured as a group number; the yearning ballads ‘Down From Dover’ and ‘Little Sparrow’; and the surprising and effective inclusion of the hymn ‘Farther Along’ (Rev. W.A. Fletcher).

As well as the gentle sound of singer/songwriter guitarist Sharp, Douglas is joined on stage by the ever robust playing of her pianist/musical director Mark Hartman, both of whom also provide additional vocal harmony.

Fiona-Jane Weston


Natalie Douglas

September 30, 2014 | By Tonya Pinkins


“Hello Dolly,” Natalie Douglas’s recent tribute to Dolly Parton at Birdland, provided a memorable cabaret experience. Her vocal instrument is incomparable; she segues easily from a smoky contralto to a pinging, piercing mix that is as rich and resplendent as early Streisand.

What makes her especially unique is her sunny disposition. She knows it and commented on it in the show, remarking that while her adoptive parents had very dark dispositions, she always saw the bright side of life. It is this combination of vacant valley girl crossed with Pillsbury doughboy delight that made for an evening of great story and song.

The show opened big with the uptempo “Rocky Top” (Felice & Boudleaux Bryant), after which came eight ballads: “Coat of Many Colors” (Parton), “After the Gold Rush” (Neil Young), “Single Women” (Michael O’Donoghue), “Little Sparrow” (Parton), “Here You Come Again” (Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil), “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” (Bob Dylan), “Farther Along” (Rev. W.A. Fletcher and other writers variously credited), and my personal favorite of the evening, “Down from Dover” (Parton).

I don’t usually enjoy ballad-heavy sets, but Douglas pulled it off with a wink in her eye that let the audience know it was all gonna work out just fine. Her very essence oozes the British slogan “keep calm and carry on.” She can take us down to the depths, but no matter how low she goes, her eyes always end on the heavens, visioning a brighter tomorrow—and we believe in it, too.

There were plenty of crowd-pleasing hits: “Here You Come Again” (Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil), “Peace Train” (Yusuf Islam, fka Cat Stevens), “Stairway to Heaven” (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, additional lyrics by Parton), “I Will Always Love You” (Parton), and “Jolene” (Parton). All of the arrangements have been set so that Douglas’s numerous money notes ring out in just the right spot on every song.

Music director Mark Hartman played accordion, piano and provided backup vocals. His wonderful arrangements are simple and traditional, with no changes of tempo or feel, no mash-ups. The band, featuring Scott Kuney on guitar and mandolin, Michael Blanco on bass and Joe Choroszewski on drums, was impeccable; Shanna Sharp on vocals and guitar was a particular stand-out.

Natalie Douglas is a brilliant performer who has a tremendous vocal talent, charisma and command that tell you you don’t have to worry about a thing—she has taken care of everything for you. She offers a glimpse of the cabaret genre at its best.

“Hello Dolly”
Birdland  –  September 15



TheaterPizzazz Review
Natalie Douglas – Hello Dolly: Music of Dolly Parton

By Joel Benjamin September 20, 2014


Natalie Douglas wrapping her soaring voice around the country-tinged music of Dolly Parton? At first the idea is a bit odd, but it works and reveals great treasures and deep meanings in songs that have grown too familiar and clichéd. In an exciting and generous program at Birdland on September 15th, Ms. Douglas, backed by an incredibly pliable band led by Mark Hartman, used her generous vocal and acting gifts to illuminate a repertoire rich in drama and emotion. She managed to re-mold her voice without duplicating Parton’s sweet twang and used much in her own background, including much time spent in Texas, to help her find both the lushness and subtlety of these songs.


She began with “Rocky Top” (Felice & Boudleaux Bryant), a sweet reverie about a materially poor, but emotionally rich home, a theme also explored in “Coat of Many Colors,” Parton’s tender evocation of mother love. Also quietly intense was Parton’s “Little Sparrow,” about a broken heart, enhanced greatly by Shanna Sharp’s vocal harmonies and guitar playing. Parton’s songs dominated the program running the gamut from the above two semi-autobiographical numbers to the longing ballad “I Just Might” and two of Parton’s anthems, “I Will Always Love You” and “Jolene,” both of which Ms. Douglas performed exquisitely, going from the pathos of the former to the frustrated passions of the latter.


Songs by other writers included “Here You Come Again” (Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil), given a world-weary spin, and Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice” sung with a twang to Mark Hartman’s colorful accordion accompaniment.


Ms. Douglas generously shared tidbits about her life, introduced several cabaret celebrities in the audience such as Julie Wilson and Anita Gillette and, best of all, was honored by the club’s management with a photograph on the wall, a jazz version of having your caricature on Sardi’s wall—a high compliment.   She deserved the tribute as well as the long, warm ovation she received from the packed, sold-out house.


Her band was completed by Scott Kuney on guitar & mandolin, Michael Blanco on bass and Joe Choroszewski on drums, all of whom were exemplary.



Cabaret Scenes
Natalie Douglas: Four Women - Birdland, New York, NY
by Ron Forman September 8, 2014

Natalie Douglas is the perfect cabaret performer to do justice to four fabulous female vocalists—Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Nina Simone and Abbey Lincoln—all of whom knew, loved and admired each other. Douglas distilled the essence of them all in her 90-minute tribute show at Birdland, calling on her ability to use different voices to capture the style of each of these divas. Her self-deprecating humor and interesting storytelling made the transition from one vocalist to another flawlessly smooth.
Douglas opened with “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man,” allowing her to display an amazing range and enunciation worthy of Horne. “Stormy Weather” was followed by an amusing story about how Waters, who introduced the song, hated Horne. Holiday’s signature song “God Bless the Child” was sung beautifully. Douglas’s ability to connect with the audience made her tearful renditions of “Strange Fruit” and “Mr. Bojangles” especially moving tributes to Holiday and Simone. “My Baby Just Cares for Me” was done delightfully, as Simone had performed it. The closing number was a very emotional performance of Lincoln’s “Throw It Away,” followed by the encore “The Best Is Yet to Come,” which I believe to be true of the career of Natalie Douglas.



Natalie Douglas – Crazy Coqs
by Admin on Wednesday, 12 February, 2014


New York jazz and cabaret star Natalie Douglas is one of those performers who fills a room with warmth and sheer loveability just by coming on the stage.

Her second residency at the Crazy Coqs, one of the great success stories of London’s music scene thanks to our hostess, the multi-talented Ruth Leon, bringing over consummate artists we had never seen before and were being deprived off until she and this lovely room came along 15 months ago, is already such a hit that a second, late-night show has been hastily arranged for Valentine’s evening.

Not one but two encores were required before a wildly enthusiastic first-night audience were willing to let her go.

Yet when she came over the same week last year with her Nina Simone tribute, few, other than regular visitors to the New York cabaret scene, had even heard of her.

With a voice big enough to fill the Albert Hall never mind a 66-seater like the Coqs, this is an artist who can do the lot – funny, serious, loud, quiet, slow and fast, soulful and scatty. And she has a quality that all great performers in this intimate genre possess and is impossible to fake, a contagiousness in her storytelling that brings everyone in the audience immediately onside.

Here she gives us the songs of four black icons of the last century, Simone again, Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln and Billie Holiday, and puts her own special spin on every item. Not just an entertainer (with Mark Hartman the perfect foil on piano), she is an educator as well as she relates the stories behind such dark and disturbing songs as ‘Strange Fruit’ and ‘Mississippi Goddam’ which played their part in helping to change the status of black people in the States.

It is not so very long ago that Lena Horne was denied the key part of Julie LaVerne in the 1951 movie Show Boat – a role given to the non-singing Ava Gardner and made all the worse because Gardner was a personal friend – simply because the Production Code banned interracial relationships in films. Little wonder Horne, a civil rights activist who got blacklisted for her political views, got disenchanted with Hollywood and concentrated increasingly on her nightclub work.

Hard to believe now that, apart from the all-black musical Cabin in the Sky in 1943, Horne never had a leading movie role, only stand-alone singing cameos, because that would have involved re-editing for states not allowed to show films with black performers.

Equally hard to believe that while blacks could entertain and be adored by white, segregated audiences, they were not permitted to eat in the same restaurants after shows nor, in some cases, sit in the same part of a bus.

Yet Douglas does not ram these atrocities down our throats because she realises we have come to be entertained, not lectured.

And she does it in such a attractively persuasive way that we go home fully aware of a history lesson we must never be allowed to forget for, while the songs that these four women wrote and performed so brilliantly undoubtedly sped along a greater acceptance of their colour, things are still far from perfect, not in the States, not in the UK, not anywhere.

But race is far from being the only subject. For instance, we learn that the perfectly-sung ‘Say It Isn’t So’ was one of two songs – ‘How Deep is the Ocean’ the other – that Irving Berlin, during a period of depression, threw away in 1932 as not being up to scratch, and it is only thanks to a copyist who rescued them from the trash can that we can hear them now as the immortal standards they turned out to be.

And we discover that Abbey Lincoln was not only originally billed as “the sepia Marilyn Monroe” but even wore Marilyn’s dress from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (without needing any padding!).

A personal favourite from this glorious 16-song evening was ‘Mr Bojangles’, an evergreen hit for Simone which country singer Jerry Jeff Walker wrote while serving time in a New Orleans jail for public intoxication. We, too, go home intoxicated because the way the formidable Douglas inhabits them, every one is a cracker.

Jeremy Chapman


Classical Source
Four Women: Nina, Lena, Abbey and Billie – Natalie Douglas at The Crazy Coqs Brasserie Zédel, Piccadilly Circus, London

Reviewed by: Tom Vallance Tuesday, February 11, 2014 


Natalie Douglas had a great success last year making her debut at The Crazy Coqs performing a tribute to Nina Simone. She makes a welcome return featuring the lives and songs of four women – Simone again, plus Billie Holiday, Lena Horne and Abbey Lincoln. All four were not only phenomenal song stylists but also brave, independent women and staunch activists. Though part of the evening inevitably deals with their battles they had to maintain dignity and equality, it is far from being downbeat for it is primarily a celebration of their achievements and artistry. I can think of few performers who maintain such a joyous rapport with their audience, Douglas’s bubbly vivacity lights up “this beautiful jewel-box of a room.”


She does not try to imitate the ladies in question, but brings her own flair to the numbers, her voice strong and secure – emotionally throat-catching and cheekily humorous. She opens unconventionally with a ballad – one of the greatest, Jerome Kern & Oscar Hammerstein II’s ‘Can’t help lovin’ that man’ from Show Boat, sung by Horne in MGM’s biopic of Kern. (One might take issue with her statement that Horne wanted to play Julie in MGM’s film version of the musical, since a key factor of the plot is that Julie passes for white.) Douglas does a soaring version of Harold Arlen & Ted Koehler’s ‘Stormy weather’, a signature song of Horne’s, though it had been introduced at the Cotton Club many years earlier by Ethel Waters. Douglas tells an amusing story of Horne’s idolising Waters and her pleasure when learning that they would both have roles in the film, Cabin in the Sky. On the first day of shooting she discovered that Waters hated her!


Douglas highlights the songwriting skills of three of her subjects. Holiday shares with Arthur Herzog the credit for the bitter ‘God bless the child’, inspired by young Holiday’s being refused money by her mother, a minister, but Simone and Lincoln were the most prolific of the four. The first civil-rights song that Simone wrote was one of the most rousing, the scathing ‘Mississippi Goddam’, a spine-tingling highlight with its seductive fast-rolling rhythm and potent interruptions of “Go slow” from Mark Hartman. Simone wrote the number after four children were killed in a church targeted by the Ku Klux Klan. She also wrote ‘Four women’, a compelling account of African-American women whose lives were shaped by their background of slavery. Douglas also includes the stark classic inspired by lynching, Abel Europol’s ‘Strange fruit’, honoured by the record industry, and from Lincoln’s catalogue she delivers ‘Throw it away’ and the pulsating ‘Wholly Earth’.


A musical version of James Thurber’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which ran off-Broadway in 1964 with a score by Leon Carr and Earl Shuman, provides Douglas with the engagingly humorous ‘Marriage is for old folks’, which states of marriage, “Whaddya got? Two people watching TV.” When it comes to standards, Douglas displays impeccable taste, with Arlen & ‘Yip’ Harburg’s ‘Happiness is a thing called Joe’, Irving Berlin’s ‘Say it isn’t so’, Rube Bloom and Johnny Mercer’s ‘Day in, day out’ and the haunting ‘Mr Bojangles’, which Douglas points out was not written as an homage to Bill Robinson but was conceived in a prison cell by Jerry Jeff Walker. As Douglas approaches the end of her beautifully structured act she announces her final number, quipping, “which in true cabaret tradition means my final two numbers”. We would have happily settled for a dozen more.



Cabaret Scenes
Natalie Douglas: Birthday Show - Birdland, New York, NY
by Alix Cohen January 20, 2014


Another year, another iconoclastic Birthday Show/Martin Luther King Tribute (the dates rub shoulders) by Natalie Douglas, whose off-the-cuff comments and recollections make audiences feel like intimates… “It’s like I have you all trapped in the car with me and my mom in the ’70s.”

Tonight’s tone is one of jazz/gospel-influenced ’70s songs. The new (to me) “Not That Different” is a relationship song whose message is aptly related to that of Dr. King: “I laugh/I love/I hope/I try/I hurt/I need/I fear/I cry/And I know you do the same things too/So we're not that different, me and you.” Interpretation is artfully phrased, deeply communicated.

Douglas’s expectedly unexpected song list ranges widely: “Marriage Is for Old Folks,” a cute, doo-da-dut song from the ill-fated musical The Secret Life of Walter Mitty; Carly Simon/Jacob Brackman’s classic “Haven’t Got Time for the Pain” arranged with great originality; even Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Something Wonderful” (oddly less vocally warm).

Ever smart and funny, the artist keeps us laughing between numbers. A story of on-the- road ordering at a Southern-based Denny’s rates with the chicken sandwich bit out of the film Five Easy Pieces or, for those younger, the one from When Harry Met Sally. That she can turn on a dime to referencing “the struggle for equality in which we’re still engaged,” speaks of appealing in-the-moment sincerity.

The hear me, Lord coupling of “Up to the Mountain” and “Walk Around Heaven,” replete with Brian Nash’s organ-like keyboard, and piano by Mark Hartman in the emphatic style of Jerry Lee Lewis, rises from her guts to the rafters. It’s affirmative, swaying revival music. “Make You Feel My Love” tamps the room down with sweet simplicity.

Natalie Douglas shares a feeling of being blessed. She’d’ve made a helluva church leader or politician.

Cabaret Scenes
Natalie Douglas: Café Carlyle, New York, NY

by Peter Haas September 27, 2013

“Kids! This is the best dream ever—and I’m in it!” Natalie Douglas’ exuberance as she stepped onto the stage at Café Carlyle, opening her premier engagement there, was contagious as she was greeted by an expectant, applauding packed house. The dream was fulfilled as she proceeded to deliver a solid, warm, varied program of popular numbers and blues. Starring with her with his sparkling, supportive piano arrangements was Musical Director Mark Hartman.

Douglas’s “Missing You” (Waite/Leonard/Sandford) was riveting as it ebbed and flowed. The familiar “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” came alive as a tale told ruefully in character. A Canadian country number, “Cry (If You Want To),” by Casey Scott, introduced a folk-like change of pace. “In the Dark,” a low-down jazz piece, highlighted by Hartman’s jazz piano work, elicited cheers, while popular numbers such as “Throw It Away,” “Let It Be Me,” and the double finale, “The Best Is Yet to Come” and “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road),” updated with Hartman’s arrangements, brought a sense of enjoying old friends with new shine on their shoes.

The Carlyle itself, with its warm, unhurried service and easy elegance, added to the pleasure of the evening.


Reviews: NATALIE DOUGLAS Is a Dazzling Diva in Her Debut at Cafe Carlyle
by Stephen Hanks

Over the last 20 or so years, there have been three nightclubs in New York that have been considered the venue Holy Grail for cabaret singers. Two of them--the Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel and Feinstein's at the Loews Regency--have in the past year or so sadly died a corporate death, leaving the upper east side Cafe Carlyle as the Carnegie Hall of cabaret haunts. When she first came to New York from California 24 years ago, Natalie Douglas would save her pennies to see the legendary Bobby Short perform at the Carlyle and dream that she would some day star in a show from that room. Last Thursday and Friday nights, after almost a quarter century performing in every New York venue on the cabaret map and many prestigious clubs around the world, and after winning numerous MAC, Bistro and Nightlife Awards, Douglas finally stood solo on the stage at that venerable venue and the audiences who saw her shows probably wondered why it took so long.

What they saw and heard (especially the Friday night crowd) was a young veteran entertainer hitting her absolute performing prime. I've been reviewing cabaret shows for just three years so I don't have a Natalie Douglas frame of reference other than her two Birdland shows the past two years--Freedom Songs and Scrapbook 2.0. While I thought both were excellent, the Carlyle performance took her to another level. We're talking Ann Hampton Callaway territory, my friends.

The Friday late night audience was buzzing with anticipation by the time Douglas walked through the crowd, her long-time Musical Director Mark Hartman already in tow at the piano. Wearing a low cut black gown with a flowery bodice wrapped in a shrug, Natalie was buxom, bubbly, and beaming throughout a 13-song set that included eclectic yet accessible songs from pop to Great American Songbook, some from past shows in which she has paid tribute to icons like Lena Horne and Nat King Cole. It was a set that not only showed off her range and flair for nuance, but also established once and for all that she is one of the few vocalists in cabaret who can sing just about anything.

After transitioning from an upbeat pop sound to cool R&B on Jimmy Webb's "Everybody Gets To Go To The Moon" for her opener, she yelled "Woo Hoo" about finally performing at the Carlyle and then proceeded to babble giddily about everything from once meeting George Bush to playing gigs on cruises to Greece and Italy. Natalie enjoys chatting up the audience in a way that can seem like a spacey stream of consciousness riff that goes over the top, but in this setting that is more intimate than, say, Birdland (where she has performed 25 times in eight years), her patter was charming and totally worked. While her longish script may sometimes shorten the set list, in this show her 13 songs were so lush and layered, it felt like much more.

If this show had been a baseball game, Douglas would have had a five home run night. Her rendition of Gloria Estefan's pop ballad "Can't Stay Away From You," was tender and emotive, while on the Nat King Cole hit "Somewhere Along the Way" she sounded like a delicious and delicate 1930s New York nightclub singer. At her most recent Birdland show, Douglas blew the roof off on a full band arrangement of the 1984 John Waite pop song "Missing You. But with just Hartman at the piano for the Carlyle show, Douglas pulled back a bit on the tempo and power and transformed the song into a heart-wrenching ballad of obsession and longing that built to a stunning climax. A bit later, she was similarly haunting on Bob Telson's "Calling You," from the 1987 film Bagdad Cafe, and she delivered "Let It Be Me" (covered by almost everyone from Elvis to the Everly Brothers) as a soaring gospel ballad. Hartman, whose quirky piano riffs behind certain lyrics were inspired, produced wonderfully jazzy and bluesy piano and vocal arrangements on Rodgers & Hart's "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" and on the show's finale, Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh"s "The Best Is Yet To Come," proving once again that Douglas and Hartman are totally in tune and in synch and musically might have been separated at birth.
For her encore, Douglas couldn't have come up with a more perfect choice, especially for this reviewer and his wife celebrating an anniversary on this night. As we left the Carlyle arm-in-arm for our trip back to Brooklyn, Natalie Douglas' mesmerizing and meticulous interpretation of "One For My Baby" was definitely the one more for the road we needed to end a glorious evening of cabaret.



TheaterPizzazz Review
An Emotional Kaleidoscope – Natalie Douglas

by John Weatherford September 27, 2013 

I do believe there has never been a performer who has enjoyed playing Café Carlyle more than the indomitable Natalie Douglas.  She shares with the audience her early days struggling in New York to find her place.  She recalls the night, after saving her pennies (and we’re talking a lot of pennies), when she and a friend sat at the bar at Café Carlyle to experience the legendary Bobby Short.  She dreamed that someday she would be on the other side of the lights.  Well, last night was the first of what will be many nights at the New York landmark.

Ms. Douglas not only was on the other side of the lights, she was the light.  Her charm and her warmth gave the spotlights a run for their money.  She is, by all accounts, one of the foremost cabaret artists today.  She mesmerizes her audiences with gentleness and a loving presence.  She makes every member of the audience feel special.  And, I truly believe that, in her heart and mind they are special.

Natalie Douglas is grateful.  What more can be said for anyone in this world than to be grateful.

Her voice is magical and her tones are tantalizing.  She is supported by a musical director who understands her passion for using music to share an emotional kaleidoscope.  Mark Hartman is a musical genius.  His arrangements are spectacular and his hands on the keys are heavenly.

This will be the show that many will remember as saying, “I was there when Natalie Douglas first appeared at Café Carlyle.  I must be one of the luckiest people in the world.”

For this first engagement, she has one more show.  Tonight Friday, Sept. 27th at 10:45 pm.  Be there so you can be one of those lucky ones.  

by Will Friedwald

The Café Carlyle

35 E 76th St., (212) 744-1600

A highly accomplished veteran of the New York club scene, you might say that Natalie Douglas is uncategorizable. It’s more accurate to describe her as belonging in several different categories at once, combining the soul of a gospel singer with the musicianship of a jazz singer and the warm, chatty intimacy of a great cabareteuse. She can sing sweetly and softly and she can belt with the kind of power that you makes you respect her authority. Yet Ms. Douglas’s greatest gift is for narrative and storytelling, and creating a direct personal connection with every audience lucky enough to be in front of her. Appearing in the after hours slot at the Carlyle, Natalie Douglas is an artist well worth staying up late for.



Cabaret Scenes
Natalie Douglas: Scrapbook 2.0 - Birdland, New York, NY

by Peter Haas June 24, 2013

Like a beaming full moon, Natalie Douglas shone on a June evening over a packed Birdland. The stars were out, too: cabaret headliners at the tables, come to enjoy one of their own. Douglas didn’t disappoint: in top voice, relaxed and full of fun, she sang a diverse program of ballads, blues and boogies.

Starring with her was a superb combo under the direction of Mark Hartman, on piano, with Joe Choroszewski on drums, Saadi Zain on bass, Brian Nash on keyboards and Chris Biesterfeldt on guitar.

From an upbeat opening (“I’m Gonna Leave You”), Douglas moved into the blues (“Long, Long Time”), then the rocking “Cow-Cow Boogie.” Other highlights included: “Once in a Lifetime”; the Gershwins’ “Slap That Bass,” featuring a dynamic solo by Zain; “Try Me Again,” and, sung slow and smoky, Cole Porter’s “I Concentrate on You.”

Natalie enjoys talking to her audience. Years ago, that patter was darkened by her discovery that she was adopted; today, that same revelation has become a source of warm-hearted, sometimes comic, family tales. However, it was her joyous, robust singing – including the evening’s finales, Abbey Lincoln’s “Throw It Away” and Meisner/Henley/Frey’s “Take It to the Limit” – that brought the audience to its feet.


Woman Around Town

Scrapbook 2.0 – The Memorable Natalie Douglas
by Alix Cohen Thursday, June 27th, 2013


Natalie Douglas floors it into a propulsive, word-thick (crisply enunciated) “I’m Gonna Leave You” before even greeting the buzzed, sold-out house. Usually Douglas saves a signature Nina Simone number for further in. This is a performer who needs no on-stage warm-up, however. She’s 150% present.

It’s the 10th Anniversary of Jim Caruso’s Broadway at Birdland and Douglas’s 25th show at the venue. “Like the scrapbook in my mind, these songs take me to a place I treasure or a place I can’t forget- though Lord knows I try.” Her intro is indicative of unique and appealing approach that features articulate intelligence, personal sharing, and witty commentary on what, though fluent, appears to be unscripted. She’s the only vocalist I can think of in whose company the quality of (plentiful) evoked laughter matches that of musical talent.

I’ve done everything I know/ To try and make you mine/ And I think I’m gonna love you/ For a long, long time (“Long, Long Time”) Douglas wraps herself in a song performing from the inside out. If you didn’t understand English, you’d still get the message. Phrasing, tone, and facial expression (not mugging) say everything one needs to know. Hands most often at her sides, the artist is invested. Emotion resonates. (And then, there’s that sumptuous voice.)

A jaunty rendition of “Cow Cow Boogie” follows. Douglas’s father used to make up bedtime stories invariably starting with an old prospector. “My father loved history as much as I do, but he made it up.” Written for the 1942 Abbott & Costello film Ride ‘Em Cowboy and later popularized by Ella Fitzgerald, the song’s cowboy chorus: Comma ti yi yi yeah/ Comma ti yippity yi yeah is almost a yodel. Douglas slipslides through octaves with ease and a little shimmy. It’s lilting and fun.

“Once in a Lifetime” is prefaced with thoughts on the way songs can have entirely new lives with change of context. Originally from Broadway’s Stop the World I Want to Get Off, it was purportedly recorded by numbers of black singers after the death of Medgar Evers, assassinated for his civil rights efforts in 1963. Douglas’s voice soars as if unbowed. Listen to it next time as we did with that in mind.

Highlights included: “Slap That Bass” (kudos to musician Saadi Zain whose finesse is as stylish as it comes) sung with an occasional shrug, saucy hip shift and snappy nonchalance; a beautifully balanced, Latin-laced foxtrot of “I Concentrate on You” with lovely piano solo by Mark Hartman conjuring the glamour of a black and white film nightclub; and a gorgeous interpretation of “Sleepy Man,” the single instance in which I felt back-up vocals gilded the lily. “If Barbra sang it or Judy sang it…you just don’t think, now me…” describes a hesitance Douglas has, to our benefit, gotten past. Her deeply potent performance stands tall.

Stories about Douglas’s family range from descriptive to revelatory (literally). They’re down to earth, warm, often humorous. References to a long, solid marriage start with quips, then become enviable. About to leave home for a brief teaching job, the song “Missing You” has particular poignancy. Despite being completely tuneful, it sounds as if she’s simply talking to Billy Joe (in the audience.) The effect is incantatory. Her eyes well with tears.

Natalie Douglas’s audience genuinely likes the woman they see on stage. Unlike many artists, she seems both sincere and accessible. Songs feel truer, more grounded because it’s she who sings them. The vocalist imbues every choice with reason. Dreamy, wry, or raw, there’s never an impersonal moment. I, for one, often hear familiar material differently under her purview. Numbers are well arranged and unfussy (bravo Mark Hartman), much more difficult than you might assume. They skillfully serve both lyrics and performer.

“Throw It Away” might’ve been written by Douglas herself, so clearly does it convey her overall message: Throw it away/ Throw it away/ Give your love, live your life/ Each and every day/ And keep your hand wide open/ Let the sun shine through/ ‘Cause you can never lose a thing/ If it belongs to you. “Your time is the greatest gift you can give anyone,” she says graciously thanking the room.

The two-handed, hot blooded “Take It To The Limit” (with William Blake) is juicy epilogue.

Reviews: Nostalgic Natalie Douglas Soars Again at Birdland With SCRAPBOOK 2.0

by Stephen Hanks

Someone saved my life last Monday night.

Only two nights removed from the last of my three solo debut shows at the Metropolitan Room celebrating the Don McLean Songbook, I was already experiencing the post-performance depression I'd heard tell about from cabaret veterans. I needed someone to lift me up where I belonged, so my instincts took me to Birdland for another trip through memory lane with Nostalgic Natalie Douglas. The last time I had heard the dynamic Ms. Douglas was 14 months before when she powered her way through her historically and politically passionate Freedom Songs.

This time, Natalie's nostalgic trip was a much more personal adventure she called Scrapbook 2.0, which traversed everything from the musical influences of her late parents to the tunes she loved while growing up in Southern California. By the time Douglas was finished flipping the pages of her musical scrapbook--and delivering some adorably homey stories along with them--my gloom had been transformed into gladness.

Douglas' new show was a part of impresario Jim Caruso's 10th year of his "Broadway at Birdland" series and was the 25th time Natalie has performed at the venue over nine years. She not only exudes a comfort level and intimacy with the room, she always seems to bring the Birdland audience to her ample bosom and nourishes them with her love for singing and her rich, effortless vocals, which features great range and a wonderful combination of jazz and pop influences. Douglas revved up the crowd from the outset with the up-tempo blues, "I'm Gonna Leave You," her obligatory tribute to her idol Nina Simone, and followed with a lovely homage to Linda Ronstadt on "Long, Long Time." She then surprised the audience with the fun, swinging country number, "Cow Cow Boogie," from--of all things--the 1942 Abbott and Costello film Ride 'Em Cowboy, and which has been sung by The Ink Spots, Ella Fitzgerald, and The Judds.

The power and intensity of the show and Douglas' vocals--which can turn from delicate to deceptively powerful on a dime--only grew stronger from there. She turned Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse's classic "Once In a Lifetime," into a tribute to all the Black recording stars (Sammy, Lena, Ray Charles, for example) who covered the song during the 1960s, almost as a personal statement. Then Douglas' entire band, including Musical Director/pianist Mark Hartman, Brian Nash on keyboards, Chris Biesterfeldt on guitar, Joe Choroszewski on drums, and especially Saadi Zain on bass, was ultra cool on the jazzy and rhythmic George and Ira Gershwin tune "Slap That Bass," from the 1937 Fred Astaire film Shall We Dance. The band then topped itself on a rich arrangement of Carly Simon and Jacob Brackman's "That's The Way I Always Heard It Should Be," supporting their singer's dramatic, soulful interpretation of a song that transitioned from an expression of disillusionment to self-doubt to independence.

Douglas' between songs patter has an unscripted, stream-of-consciousness quality that can be very funny and endearing, but also annoyingly manic and ditzy, as if she bogarted a joint at a party and couldn't stop babbling. As interesting and amusing as some of her family history anecdotes could be (as in speculating whether or not she might have been the love child of an affair between Doris Day and Willie Mays), I found myself wishing she would do an internal edit so she could add another song or two to the set. That quibble aside, she certainly woke me up on her emotional rendition of the love ballad "Sleepy Man," from the 1975 Broadway musical The Robber Bridegroom. But I really had to catch my breath when Douglas attached her power pop voice to John Waite's 1984 hit "Missing You." I've never been a big fan of the song, but Hartman's terrific arrangement with its slow, dramatic build allowed Natalie to put her stamp on the song and make it new, at least for me.

One song I do absolutely love is Elton John's "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" (from 1975's Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, the first album ever to debut at number one on the pop charts). As the second part of a medley with the Bonnie Raitt song "My First Night Alone," Douglas did a difficult song proud (and Hartman was dynamic on those familiar Elton John faux classical piano riffs). After completely soaring on "Someone Saved," her finale/encore combination of Abbey Lincoln's "Throw It Away," and the Eagles' "Take It To The Limit," seemed almost anti-climatic. Natalie Douglas didn't have to do much more to save my life that night. She had me at "Sugar Bear . . .”

Woman Around Town

Freedom Songs: Election Edition – Inspiring
by Alix Cohen Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Freedom Songs is inspiring. Anecdotal and historical set-ups are spare and illuminating, not the least because of the artist’s warmth and passion. Unique arrangements, a perfect fit to material, enable rock, pop, blues, spirituals and protest songs to follow one another without a ripple of dissonance. Choices are well researched, moving, and, yes! extremely entertaining. This is not a polemic, it’s uplifting. If civil rights were taught like Natalie Douglas’ show, we might have a whole generation of knowledgeable, concerned citizens. Even as our audience claps and bobs, issues are raised, colors are described, perspective offered. Send her to the schools someone!

Calling it “a show of my heart” Douglas begins with songs by Max Roach/Oscar Brown Jr., and then Stephen Stills; an unabashed anthem followed by the dark poetry of what a field day for the heat/1000 people in the street. “You can’t fight or run if you’re singing,” she comments. The deep, rich voice needs no warm up. It rises from her soul like a force of nature. Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird” is next. It seems Sir Paul came up with the lyric you were only waiting for this moment to be free in response to the assassination of Martin Luther King. Douglas found the song changed for her in light of that knowledge and performs accordingly with vigor we’re unaccustomed to hearing on this tune.

Later, “Why? (The King of Love is Dead),” written by bassist Gene Taylor upon learning of King’s death, evokes the artist’s tears. The song is one of mourning, but also determination.

Nina Simone’s locomotive “Mississippi Goddamn” rhythmically insists change is too slow! too slow! like the repeating sound of a workingman’s hammer or a judge’s gavel. Verse is wrenching. Douglas’ focus is intense. She delivers and then some, leaving one breathless while she, amazingly, is not. Despite the fact “I Am Woman” is declaratory, it takes on warmer tone. Look how much I gained is accompanied by a cat grin. “Paul McCartney, Nina Simone, and Helen Reddy in a row?!” Douglas exclaims. A sign of iconoclastic taste. She tells us her childhood career goal was “hippie,” and that now she’s a proud “screaming liberal.”Most of the audience clearly shares her views.

Surprising numbers include Ervin Drake’s 1940’s contribution, “No Restricted Signs in Heaven.” Apparently the writer of “It Was a Very Good Year” “has long been an agitating liberal.” The terrific lyric manages to be both humorous (necessary to get it published) and incisive in its appalled observations of national bigotry. Bravo Mr. Drake. And “Any Once Upon a Time” (Rob Abel/Chuck Steffan) a ballad about marriage equality during which I conjured a vision of thousands of notes in bottles being sent to sea in prayer. It’s a song that should be performed often these days. Douglas’ creamy voice is filled with empathy and hope. “Nobody’s free till everybody’s free,” she says quoting voting rights activist and civil rights leader, Fannie Lou Hamer.

A haunting rendition of the iconic “Woodstock” is offered with gravitas. What the vocalist does with the word “garden” elicits chills. It’s earthy. Douglas reaches into collective memory. You were there, you read about it, saw photos or films. The event caused change. She’s able to do same thing with protest songs, blues, lyrics brightened by faith. Prejudice we may never have personally experienced becomes universal, a part of group responsibility and awareness. It’s a gift. “Look for the Union Label,” (you’re unlikely to hear this again on a cabaret stage), suggested as “a repurposing of “We Shall Overcome,” is followed by a buoyant “If I Had a Hammer” with an arrangement as textured as it is rousing.

Paul Simon and Bobby Darin selections are gentler and more optimistic. Douglas’ interpretation is pristine. “Things will be okay in the end. If things aren’t okay, then it’s not the end.” One of the original, then teenage, Freedom Riders is in the audience. She thanks him sincerely for his courage.

Ending as uniquely as the show began, “This Little Light” segues into a song called “Now” (Jule Styne/Betty Comden/Adolf(sic) Green) with which Lena Horne addressed her audience as opening act for Frank Sinatra: We want more than just a promise/Say goodbye to Uncle Thomas/Now, now now! The music is- wait for it- “Hava Nagila” (literally “Let us rejoice”), a traditional Jewish folk song. Imagine that.

Performed with elegance, conviction, pride, and great good humor, Natalie Douglas’ Freedom Songs is not to be missed whenever and wherever it should return.


Cabaret Scenes
Natalie Douglas: Freedom Songs - Birdland, New York, NY

by Peter Haas April 16, 2012

From movements focused on the Freedom Riders and the Vietnam War to women’s suffrage and marriage equality, the fight for social and political justice has long found its voice in song. Natalie Douglas has frequently inserted such selections into her appearances, but, she told Cabaret Scenes, “I have always wanted to do a full show that shed light on the particular fusion of music and equality.” Her newest show, Freedom Songs, was it – triumphantly.

Powerful and driving, with rich arrangements featuring a four-piece band and two back-up singers, the show was riveting from start to finish. The songs, sixteen in all, were all ones that have been used to sustain fights for equality in such areas as women’s rights, voting rights and, predominantly in this show, racial equality. With Douglas front and center all the way, frequently introducing the songs and their contexts, she delivered them sweet and strong.

The numbers ranged from traditional to contemporary. The former included “Oh Freedom,” “We Shall Not Be Moved,” and “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Take Me Down,” while the more contemporary numbers were those by Bob Dylan (“The Death of Emmett Till”), Pete Seeger and Lee Hays (“If I Had a Hammer”), Paul McCartney (“Blackbird”), Joni Mitchell (“Woodstock”) and others, even the Broadway-famed combination of Jule Styne, Adolph Green and Betty Comden with “Now,” written to the tune of “Hava Nagilah.” A spirited finale was Douglas’s leading the room in a thrilling “This Little Light of Mine.”

The band was exciting in itself. At the piano was Musical Director Mark Hartman, with Sean Harkness featured on guitar, Joe Choroszewski on drums, Saadi Zain on bass and Brian Nash on keyboard and vocals – all contributing both as instrumentalists and a sometime-chorus. Adding smooth back-up vocals throughout were Tanya Holt and Kimberly Marable.

The show – combining history lesson, food for thought and rich, rousing entertainment – was, alas, booked as a one-time event. However, Natalie Douglas is hoping to tour with it. Be sure to catch it should that happen.



Reviews: Singing Classic Songs of Freedom and Equality, Natalie Douglas Takes Flight at Birdland 

by Stephen Hanks

Since April is not a month during which America recognizes the history of African-Americans (February) or Women (March) or Gay Pride (June, in commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall riots), Natalie Douglas’ recent show (April 16, 2012) at Birdland (her 22nd at the venue), “Freedom Songs,” had little to do with celebrating the anniversaries of these groups and everything to do with Douglas’ passion for the songs and their struggle-for-equality messages. Considering, however, that America in April 2012 is still dealing with issues of discrimination, civil rights, economic fairness and irrational wars, the timing of “Freedom Songs”—whether the singer intended it or not—couldn’t have been more serendipitous.

Douglas’ set included songs that span almost 150 years, from the post-Civil War hymn “Oh Freedom” to “Amendment One,” Laurelyn Dossett’s recently-written political folk song urging North Carolinians to vote this May against an amendment that would deem same-sex marriage in their state an illegal union. Douglas’ vocals were rich and reverential covering the classic movement anthems such as the 1949 paean to progressives “If I Had a Hammer” (Pete Seeger/Lee Hays), and Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman,” which after its release in 1971 became the theme song of the feminist movement. And, of course, there were the message songs of the 1960s like Bob Dylan’s civil rights commentary, “The Death of Emmett Till,” Stephen Stills’ anti-war “For What It’s Worth” (“Stop, children, what’s that sound . . . “), Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” (which featured a wonderful guitar break by Sean Harkness), Paul McCartney’s, “Blackbird,” which was inspired by the 1968 death of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Tanya Holt and Kimberly Marable provided solid background vocals on Natalie’s sweet rendition), and Bobby Darin’s 1969 anti-Vietnam War hit “A Simple Song of Freedom.”

Such politically passionate songs were a perfect fit for the seven-time MAC Award-winner, not only because one senses Douglas’ commitment to the lyrics and the causes, but because her vocals reveal the blues, jazz, folk, and gospel influences necessary to put them over (displayed immediately on her opening number “Freedom Day”). She was absolutely rousing on the traditional civil rights tune “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around," and as a connoisseur of the Nina Simone songbook (she’s performed two tribute shows and produced a CD on the songs of the great jazz singer and civil rights activist), Douglas absolutely nailed the upbeat sounding, but deadly serious “Mississippi Goddam,” Simone’s 1964 response to the murder of Black civil rights leader Medgar Evers in Mississippi and church bombings in Birmingham, Alabama.

Speaking of the juxtaposition of the upbeat with the serious, if there was one obvious blemish in Douglas’ otherwise entertaining show it was that her perpetually bubbly on-stage personality didn’t always jive with the solemn, earnest, and thoughtful messages of the songs. Perhaps the lightheartedness was an intentional counterbalance against the heaviness of the lyrics, but Natalie’s between songs conversational patter could be rushed, breathless, somewhat inappropriate (was this really the show to mention Bobby Darin “smoking, drinking, and banging Sandra Dee?”), and often quite long. And spending what seemed like more than five minutes on a commercial for her CDs, urging folks to join her mailing list, and whether she should have recorded the show, diminished the poignant, political, and powerful nature of the set list.

That correctable flaw aside, “Freedom Songs” was a compelling production offered at an important time in the current political landscape. With right-wing state legislatures throughout the country promoting and passing laws that trample on women’s reproductive freedom, deny marriage equality for gays and lesbians, encourage voter suppression, strip rights of union workers, and allow people to act out their racial prejudices while hiding behind “stand your ground” laws, Natalie Douglas’ meaningful show provided a stirring reminder—even to a predominantly liberal New York cabaret audience—that the fight for political equality, personal rights, and economic fairness in America is never over.

Musical support was also provided by Musical Director Mark Hartman on piano, Joe Choroszewski on drums, Saadi Zain on bass, and Brian Nash on keyboards and vocals.

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