Whatever you were doing the night before Halloween, I'm sure it was not as much fun as what I got to do when on October 30 I was lucky enough to go to Anne Kerry Ford's last show saluting great songwriters at the Gardenia in West Hollywood and, as a fan of cabaret, I was treated to a night of classic proportions. Ms. Ford pulled out all of the stops in making the show seamless and effortless, entertaining and informative, artistic and whimsical. The fact that she made it look so easy belies the sheer magnitude of her cabaret accomplishments.

She started out with the most difficult material, Kurt Weill's "I'm a Stranger Here Myself," with lyrics by Ogden Nash. Her total focus and interpretive body motions illuminated the rather dense poetry of Nash and set up the rest of her show quite nicely. Highlighting the Weill tribute was a seldom heard duet from "The Three Penny Opera" between Jenny and Mackthe Knife with musical conductor John Boswell as MacHeath. Interspersed between her bouquet of hand-picked songs, were apropos bits of history and biography, aptly setting up her next set of songs.

She spoke expertly about her next composer, Irving Berlin, and did a lovely rendition of "Let Yourself Go" followed by "Chasing the Blues Away." Then she included the cabaret staple, the medley, as she artfully put together "Say It Isn't So,""Remember" and 'What'll I Do." At this point, she introduced her guest artist, Lisa Richard. Having attended another show of Ford's lately, featuring Barbara Brussell, I was not surprised at the magnitude of Richard's talent. Ford's supreme confidence and love the of the art form was underscored by her choice of guests. Few performers allow others to shine as brightly as Anne does. That said, Lisa Richard has Broadway in her bloodstream and added another dimension to her show with an engaging stage voice and clever performance. Her "I Love a Piano" started out with her draped across the Gardenia's grand as if she were really in love with it! She added a lot of sex appeal and did so with charm and grace and panache.

Anne pulled out every kind of changeup cabaret allows. She did a musical interlude using her voice like a coronet, she did a drunk song, "Vodka", she did an ingenue's favorite, "Mr. Snow," and was a delightful Carrie; all this before she got to Stephen Sondheim. Her "Move On" message seemed to be the core of her show right where it should be deep in the last chunk of the beautiful music she shared with us. She sang it like a prayer and when she came back for encores, she shared the stage with Lisa Richard for a duet, and then Lisa belted out a very original choice in "Another Mr. Right Left." Anne ended the show with a Monty Python song about the universe which summed up the whole evening: adorable, enlightening and entertaining.

Gina Zollman The Beverly Hills Outlook 11/16/02