The piece de resistance of Sweeney Todd with eight instruments is Judy Kaye. Honestly, when I heard that Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street had been barbered down to eight instruments, I couldn’t have been less interested, no matter how revolutionary a concept.
But how can I resist seeing Judy Kaye on stage for the first time in such a role?
Probably my favorite Judy Kaye performance is as Emma Goldman in Ragtime, which I was able to see through the God-send of the Lincoln Center theatre archive. In the context of the show, I admire that character so much because she speaks so passionately about her convictions and acts upon them without regard for her own personal welfare (I don’t know enough about the real Emma Goldman to comment on her outside the musical). Kaye’s Goldman highlights all of those admirable characteristics, and she gave a dynamic performance. I love hearing her on that CD.
The first of my two other encounters with the great Judy Kaye is as Babe Williams on the Jay records release of the complete recording of The Pajama Game in which she gives a performance that almost seems to have stepped right off of a 1950s stage, which is perfect for this quintessential 1950s show. Because of the brassiness of her voice, Kaye’s Babe is particularly blue collar, while still soft and tender for the romantic moments of the show.
I also love her lusty (think both meanings of the word) Meg Brockie on the studio cast recording of Brigadoon. Her two solos highlighting Meg’s, um, hearty view of life are tops.
So, I hope to someday write about how exciting it was to see Judy Kaye in person. Until then, I’ll be in awe from her recordings.
the Broadway Mouth
September 14, 2007