Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Review: Pia Zadora returns to the Las Vegas stage


Pia Zadora, veteran of Broadway, music and film, made her Smith Center debut in Las Vegas this weekend at the gorgeous Cabaret Jazz venue after a 15 year absence from performing.

This was my first opportunity to visit Cabaret Jazz at the Smith Center and I was not disappointed.  Not only is the venue beautiful, but the entire experience was top rate due to the customer service provided by the entire staff.  I encourage Las Vegans to look to Cabaret Jazz for a terrific night out.

With a career that began when she was 7, her career roles range from the original Broadway productions of "Fiddler on the Roof" to 1990s "Crazy For You," from the 1964 movie "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" to her 1981 performance in the film "Butterfly."

In the 1980s, she began a music career that spanned pop, rock and standards, earning a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Vocal Performance Female for "Rock It Out" in 1984.

With video testimony by Grammy and Academy Award-winning legend Frank Sinatra praising Zadora, she made her entrance from the back of the audience. The audience made apparent its affection for the sunny, Golden Globe winner as she took the stage for the evening.

Often referred to as "the little lady with the big voice," she made good on that title with several swinging arrangements of American Songbook standards like "Pick Yourself Up," " The Lady Is A Tramp," and "I'm Beginning To See The Light." With expert musical direction from Vincent Falcone (Frank Sinatra's former music director) at the helm, Zadora delivered time and again with big voiced, crowd-pleasing selections of songs.

While she does well with big, powerful vocals, her voice demonstrates less color and expression during quieter passages. Like a expensive race car, she seems anxious to open the engine all the way up rather than cruise the side roads of personal lyrics, like those of the Michel Legrand hit "How Do You Keep The Music Playing?" Interestingly, she tacked on an awkward, big-voiced ending to the song that seemed out of place, although she clearly felt at ease in delivering the unexpected money notes at the end.

When it comes to lyric interpretation, Zadora takes most songs at face value. More big band singer than cabaret, she tends to play to the audience in a general manner, rather than exploring what may lie beneath the surface of the songs she sings.

Her encore - Jerry Herman's gay anthem "I Am What I Am" - left the audience on a high note thanks to her light-hearted but full throated delivery.

Zadora delivered just what her fans anticipated — a dose of classic American songs in the terrific setting of the Smith Center's Cabaret Jazz room.

2 out of 4 stars

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