In order to sing Kurt Weill, Marc Blitzstein, Bertolt Brecht, Friedrich Hollaender and other agitprop writers, you need an outstanding vocal range. These songs are hard on the ear to begin with and Kelly Burke’s, performance in Love for Sale, definitely does not help. Ms. Burke, does not have the chops to tackle this repertoire. Her voice is thin and strident, with a pitch problem. If you are going to put together this kind of show, the songs should be in the right key. This show sounded like they were taken are out of a vocal score, that had not been transposed for the artist. They were too high. There were too many (25) and out of the 25, there were only two up-tempo’s.
Love for Sale, is more of a cabaret show, than a two act musical. The book sounded more like chatter and the dialogue was more like a reason to sing 25 songs. In Act One, we follow Ms. Burke who has relocated to 1920’s Paris. She meets a young bohemian, who she falls for. When he joins the war effort, he is killed (“Ballad of The Soldier’s Wife”). In Act Two, she is now a worldly chanteuse and we don’t even realize it is the same girl, until half way through. I guess the point of this storyline is to show the journey of an innocent to a jaded woman who loses it. It was hard to tell, because Ms. Burke is also not a great actress.
The most ironic part of the show was the title song, Cole Porter’s Love for Sale. This song should have been Ms. Burke’s tour de force number, yet it was the worst sung song in the entire show. I am enclosing Luba Mason’s version, because this is how it should have sounded.
Ms. Burke does look well on stage. She is tall and lithe, but looks are not everything.
Charles Alterman, pianist and musical director, has an impressive resume, so he should have known and advised Ms. Burke on the proper keys in which to sing. This show was seriously painful on the ear. Also Mr. Alterman was not dressed for the role, considering he was a key character. He did however, have a much better voice than Ms. Burke.
Robert F. Gross is listed as the director and my guess is he also wrote some of this material, since there isn’t a writer credited. Again another mishap. Mr. Gross directed the show all over the room, so to watch it you got a neck cramp if you followed Ms. Burke.
This is an hour and half of my life I will never get back and had I not been reviewing it, I would have left after Act One.
Love for Sale: SoHo Playhouse, 15 VanDam St., until Feb. 19th.