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Kathleen Turner Finds Her Voice at Café Carlyle

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You pick up the phone knowing it’s Kathleen Turner, yet the voice still comes as a shock: gravelly and dry and as deep as a sinkhole, it could be mistaken for Harvey Fierstein’s. She’s calling from London—fifteen minutes early, so she can “scurry off and do some shopping”—where she’s performing a stage memoir called, cheekily enough, “Finding My Voice.” A slimmed-down version comes to the Café Carlyle May 22-June 2, featuring anecdotes from her stage and screen career punctuated by standards.

“I’ve never really sung professionally and never really considered it, because I don’t like musicals per se,” she says, “and because there are very few if any musical leads that are bass-baritone.” But here’s how it happened: five years ago, Arena Stage, in Washington, D.C., asked her to star in “Mother Courage and Her Children,” in which her character had six songs. “And I loved doing it. I loved doing the damned numbers!” So she and the two guys who helped her with the damned numbers—Andy Gale and Mark Janas—developed a solo act, which she premièred last September, at Philadelphia Theatre Company. The cabaret impresario Michael Feinstein asked her to bring it to San Francisco, and then some London producers called. Turner says, “They asked the question ‘Could you be more political?’ I said, ‘Ohhh, yes.’ ”

Since her film début, in the 1981 erotic thriller “Body Heat,” Turner has played vamps, serial moms, God, and Jessica Rabbit. But she has never played herself until now. “It is odd not having a character to channel yourself through,” she says. (Theatregoers will remember her indelible Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” on Broadway in 2005, in which Turner and the character seemed to channel each other.) Gale and Janas helped her comb through the Great American Songbook, looking for numbers that would illuminate her recollections. When she recalls falling in love with the theatre as a girl, she sings “It’s Only a Paper Moon” (“It’s only a canvas sky / Hanging over a muslin tree”); recounting life on the road, she sings a ditty called “Sweet Kentucky Ham” (“You figure what the hell / you can eat in your motel”). “ ‘Let’s Fall in Love’ is right at the top of the show,” she says. “It’s, like, Oh, come on, let’s just do this. I’m going to charm the hell out of you, and you’re going to like it.” ♦


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https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/05/28/kathleen-turner-finds-her-voice-at-cafe-carlyle

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