Heather MacRae | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader
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HEATHER MACRAE

Heather MacRae's cabaret show Songs for My Father, which features tunes her dad, Gordon, sang in the 1950s movie musicals he made with Doris Day and Shirley Jones, could easily have been just another evening of breezy nostalgia. MacRae has her father's engaging earnestness (as well as his strong chin and apple cheeks) plus a gift for yearning lyricism, which she puts to good use on selections such as "If I Loved You" (from Carousel) and an exquisite, slow rendition of "I Only Have Eyes for You" (from Tea for Two)--which recalls a French impressionist art song as MacRae's slightly breathy mezzo caresses the melody over musical director Mark Nadler's rippling piano arpeggios. But this thoughtful, highly personal program--compiled with the guidance of Nadler and director Barry Kleinbort--is more than just an exercise in old-fashioned charm. MacRae weaves her songs into a familial narrative, and Songs for My Father achieves a rare depth of feeling as her reminiscences segue from cute tales of Hollywood high jinks to reflections on her dad's alcoholism and its effect on their family. The anecdotes are sensitive but never mawkish; MacRae wisely lets the music carry the emotional weight. In this context, selections like Carousel's beautifully understated "What's the Use of Wond'rin'" become uniquely touching: "What's the use of wond'rin' if he's good or if he's bad / He's your fella and you love him, that's all there is to that." Thursday (August 19) and Friday, 8 PM, Saturday, 8 and 10:30 PM, and Sunday, 8 PM, Davenport's Piano Bar & Cabaret, 1383 N. Milwaukee; 773-278-1830. ALBERT WILLIAMS

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