By: Paulanne Simmons
British cabaret dynamo Barb Jungr grew up in Rochdale, Lancashire, just a few miles from Liverpool. So it’s not surprising she has a special attraction to the Beatles. In fact, she told the audience at Don’t Tell Mama on Jan. 9 that growing up in the 1960s, she was convinced her country had produced no modern popular icon. Then the Beatles came along and Great Britain was back on the map.
Jungr’s show, which ran Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, celebrated not only her personal connection with the Beatles but also the release of her latest CD, “Come Together,” an exciting collaboration between Jungr and arranger and pianist John McDaniel. But much more important, it introduced even the most avid Beatle fan to a whole new way of looking at the Fab Four.
When Jungr sings “Ah look at all the lonely people,” she expresses all the isolation and misery of loneliness in a way that might have surprised even the song’s creators. The beautiful and tender “In My Life” is given a similarly intense treatment.
But Jungr also knows how to inject an impish merriment into every performance. Often she engaged in playful banter with McDaniel. It’s obvious the two like each other both professionally and personally. Several times Jungr ceded the stage to McDaniel, who sang a few songs in his own style.
Although the Beatles have been lauded for their lyrics in the group’s more mature years, it’s hard to make too much of lyrics such as “I give her all my love/That’s all I do/And if you saw my love/You’d love her to/I love her.” But Jungr, with her exquisite phrasing and deep emotional commitment to every song she adopts and adapts, can turn even the most banal of lyrics into a revelation.
With that said, Jungr has a keen sense of which songs the audience wants to hear and she wants to sing. This is especially true in her medleys, when she combines the insolence of “Getting Better” with the lyricism of “Here There Everywhere” or strings together simple messages of love in “And I Love Her,” “All My Loving” and “All You Need Is Love.”
When Barb Jungr sings she has a unique ability to convince everyone in the audience she’s sharing a very special secret with very special people. Sometimes that secret is funny, sometimes it’s sad and sometimes it’s subversive. But it always tickles the imagination and soothes the soul.