Carol Shedlin

May 16, 2014

Carol ShedlinAn evening with Carol Shedlin’s new show, “Child of the ’30s,” is a walk into a black-and-white movie. Her opening number, “Are you Having Any Fun?” (Jack Yellen, Sammy Fain), perfectly conjures her 1930’s childhood built of make believe as her parents “lived in style and grace as the money dwindled.”

Shedlin cuts a striking figure with her flowing blonde hair, simple black sheath, and long strand of pearls, one of a few articles her mother refused to sell to save the family. Her rendition of Irving Berlin’s “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” captures the two young parents trying to hold on to the party and give the little girl a taste of what was quickly slipping away. And it appears they did their job well, as she serenades us with a haunting “Sheltered by the Stars, Cradled by the Moon” (Fats Waller, Lester Young). One of my favorites of the evening is the Gershwins’ “Slap That Bass”; Shedlin caught me off guard with her movement and rhythm and a sense of timing that simply can’t be taught.

Most of the songs were new to me, but every one of them fits perfectly into the evening. There was exactly the right amount of patter, and because of the intimate anecdotes she shares, each song takes on depths of greater meaning as Shedlin, stands, eyes twinkling, recalling, expressing, and carrying us with her on the journey of memory through song.

A bit of advice her mother gave that she took to heart was “Sing before breakfast and cry before supper,” and Shedlin recalls a piece of sheet music on the baby grand piano and a song her mother played every day for months. The family rumor was that during an Argentinian cruise, her mother had fallen in love with a young man. Shedlin sings “Deep Purple” (Mitchell Parish, Peter DeRose) with all the longing of the young woman trapped by circumstances but still full of longing.

She gives us a range of emotions, from a two-year-old’s tantrum on “Let’s Pretend There’s a Moon” (Russ Columbo, Grace Hamilton, Jack Stern) to her first trip to the Automat and the two nickles she spent on the “phony hot chocolate” on “A Little Bit Independent” (Edgar Leslie, Joe Burke). Another of my favorites is a sexy, funny version of “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (Ted Koehler, Harold Arlen) in which she shakes her hips and flirts with men in the audience with great abandon. “Dream a Little Dream of Me” (Gus Kahn Wilbur Schwandt, Fabian André) closes the evening, with Shedlin in a white ermine shrug, a remnant of her mother’s full-length ermine cape.

The musical direction by Jon Delfin on piano and the bass accompaniment of Saadi Zain (who has several terrific solos) are fantastic. The direction by Aaron Morishita and writing of the show are among the best I’ve ever seen; there is not a wasted word or melody. Shedlin is a fine actress, with expressive eyes and great phrasing, and she exudes infectious gratitude and joy. It was my pleasure to enter her dreams and be gifted with a taste of the 1930s. I loved this evening and this show—a wonderful example of a well made cabaret.

“Child of the ’30s”
Don’t Tell Mama  –  April 28, May 5, 12, 19


About the Author

Tonya Pinkins is an award-winning actress, singer, writer, director, author and mother of four. She enjoys the arts in all their forms.