The Reviews

Stu Hamstra’s Cabaret Hotline Online NYC

I spoke of entertainers in a review of Mary Stout's show a while back, and listed a few of these marvelous folks. Well, add two more to that list - Julie Sheppard and Irene Soderberg.

I saw their show last night at DON'T TELL MAMA (343 West 46th Street, NYC - 1-212-757-0788 - donttellmamanyc.com and marvelled at the talent that these California-based singers revealed. Long-time NYC cabaret-goers will remember Ms. Sheppard for her "Julie, Julie, Julie" show, a Judy Garland-themed cabaret act that last appeared in NYC 17 years ago - and won a MAC award. She later relocated to the LA area. (Ms. Sheppard will reprise that show for one time only on this Saturday night, October 4th at 8:00 pm at MAMA'S.)

With Ricky Ritzel at the piano, Julie & Irene presented an hour of great singing, clever "ad-libs" and plenty of fun as they took turns on stage, and even sang a few duets. Ms. Soderberg did an amazing Ethel Merman tribute medley, and Ms. Sheppard gave a medley-sample of her Judy Garland show. With never a dull moment, and lots of sassy belting, the show had everyone in the room applauding and laughing - totally entertained by two of the best in the business. Both gals have mellowed a bit since their last appearances in NYC, and there were moments of poignancy and heart as well. There were delightful song parodies, and even a few songs totally unfamiliar to me - and very funny ones at that!

The ghosts of Judy Garland, Sophie Tucker, Ethel Merman, and other great entertainers of the past were dancing in the shadows during this show. Don't miss this one!

Can You Spell Diva?
by richmond chandler, 4 front magazine

The first time that I heard the word "Diva" I laughed. I laughed because I was jealous that I don't know one and I knew that I wasn't one either. Such is life. Well, I am truly happy to inform you that this has changed. No, I am not talking about The Little Mermaid (a Diva to be sure.) I am talking about the incredible and most magnificent of all Divas (RuPaul excluded, of course.) Irene Soderberg

Girlfriend, let me tell you about the one that you have to see. Irene is like the perfect wave that Moondoggie kept telling Gidget about. She is the perfect note that Amadeus was looking for. She is the Olivia De Havilland to Errol Flynn; the Scarlett to Rhett. Duh... I am telling you that this is the one star you will want to see. Get it? She is awesome. She is fun. She sparkles. And she is blond. What more do you want? O.K., let's talk about her talent. She can sing hits from the 20's through the 90's like nobody's business. Irene loves to let you yell out what you want to hear, no matter how obscure it may seem. And she will not let you down. Believe me, I really tried, no kidding. I asked for stuff from Guys and Dolls, Dreamgirls, Romance, The Parent Trap, Saturday Night Fever, Can't Stop the Music and assorted oldies.

Irene is Mae West today. Irene is a star that fell to earth. Irene is someone that you have to meet, have to know, have to hug. Irene is the confidant that will help you get that empowerment you need. Remember Bedknobs and Broomsticks with Angela Landsbury? You really never believed in magic until you saw that, did you? Neither did I, until three things happened to me: one was seeing Xanadu, one was spending the day at Disneyland (especially seeing Fantasmic and the Electric Parade.) and the last one was being in the company of Irene Soderberg.

Did I say she was fabulous? Did I say she was cool? Did I say that she was Indiana Jones in a sequin gown? Did I say that she was the only thing that would make you stay out late and call in sick from work the next day? Well now I have. She is awesome. Am I raving? Damn straight, and you will too, when you see her. She performs all over town, but your best bet is to try to see her on Saturdays at the Villa VilleKulla. If you don't find yourself having the best night of your life, then maybe you need a doctor. Irene Soderberg is the best that West Hollywood has to offer and I am proud to have been a part of her show.

Irene Soderberg: This is her Life
by sister dana van iquity

Irene Soderberg, that ball of energy and platinum hair, is releasing her 4th CD, This is My Life, which will have its grand debut at Martuni’s, #4 Valencia Street at Market on Sunday, Jan. 22 at 4 & 7pm. You would be wise to call (415) 241-0205 for reservations. The $10 cover includes CD discount. Soderberg says the album personifies her life of diversity, joy, humor, heart, and soul. “The more I live life, the more I love life, and honey, I’m living and loving a lot!” she says with enthusiasm plus. She adds, “My dear family and friends, this music is for us all. Thank you for continuing to share my dreams.” This lively CD is an eclectic musical romp of Broadway, jazz, swing, blues, and torch songs in a beautiful mix and with some fabulous arrangements courtesy of co-producer Andy Howe. In the past, Soderberg has opened for such stellar acts as Willie Nelson, Pat Benetar, Chaka Chan, Thelma Houston, Grace Slick, and Judy Tenuta. She has donated her time to over 700 benefits for AIDS, breast cancer, child abuse, and many others. But can she sing? Hell yes!

The CD begins in a dreamy state with “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever,” wafting on air and reverb, then blends into a bouncy “Almost Like Being in Love.” For a complete change of pace, a very grammatically incorrect “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby” asks that musical question from down Harlem way in a funky jazz piece with plenty of grit. “You Don’t Know Me,” sings Soderberg with a certain solemnity about a lover who gives his heart away and takes it back just as freely. Jennifer Leitham on left-handed bass lends an added austerity to the number. Changing the mood again, “Hound Dog” is much less Elvis and lots more Irene. “You told me you was high class, but I could see through that,” she says to the cur as if she were brandishing a rolled up newspaper at the mutt. “The Way of Love” has always stumped me, ever since I heard Cher sing it. It’s a great power ballad, but the lyrics confuse me. Is the female singer warning a rival female lover who stole her love that this guy is going to dump her too, or is she talking to the guy who did the dumping? Someone set me straight on this, please.

“Drag Queen” by Dawn Hampton is a completely new set of lyrics to that old chestnut “Makin’ Whoopee. “I gotta fess up; I like to dress up; I’m just a drag queen,” she confides, although in truth she is a faux queen—a biological female with a drag queen trapped inside. The words are hilarious: “I call you mister; but you’re my sister; you’re just a drag queen.” Okay, just one more line: “And if you wanna; you be Madonna, and I’ll be Irene.” Just precious. I can’t wait to hear it lip-synced by my DQ performer pals.

Then the mood shifts to wistful with “Till There Was You” from Music Man. Singing of sweet fragrant meadows and bells ringing, Soderberg shows that sometimes love can be all around but you won’t notice until the proper lover comes along to awaken that spirit. She also sings the hell outta George & Ira Gershwin’s “’S Wonderful,” and indeed her rendition ’s wonderful, ’s marvelous, and ’s awfully nice, as the lyrics go. There is a touch of Marilyn Monroe in Soderberg’s sweet but sultry delivery. But then she becomes Streisand and Garland combined when doing their classic torch song, “My Man.” She cries, “Whatever my man is, I am his forevermore,” and we sympathize with such a co-dependent woman who will crawl on her knees to get that low down louse back again. Not exactly feminism, but certainly good torch material. Cole Porter has a very different take on love with “Let’s Do It,” since birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it. Soderberg is quite convincing with her sexy voice that we should definitely do it. My favorite line: “Electric eels do it, though it shocks ’em, I know.” Oh, the visual.

“First Time on a Ferris Wheel” was a first for me. I had never heard it before, but it is an enchanting number of first love with a French touch, reminiscent of Jacques Brel or Edith Piaf. Far from a first for me but always a pleasure is “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” the national gay anthem. Soderberg thankfully includes the rarely heard introductory vamp before the familiar chorus begins. The big finish is the best, with the dramatic keyboarding of Andy Howe accompanying. The gritty “On Broadway” tells the tale of the newbie with stars in eyes, coming to the Big City to get that big break that just doesn’t seem to come: “When you’re walkin’ down that street and you ain’t had enough to eat, the glitter rubs right off, and you’re nowhere.” The angry sax by Glen Garrett seems to exemplify the cruelty of the city. Everyone has done “Fever,” but when Soderberg purposely underplays it, the song is reminiscent of its champion, Peggy Lee. And that one is quite the opposite of “Good to Mama” from Chicago, where we hear the matron of the cellblock hamming it up and belting it out: “Spice it up for Mama; she’ll get hot for you!” Ooooh, such nasty lyrics by such a nasty lady!

Two songs perfectly close out the album. The first, “Maybe This Time,” brings on the tears of unrequited love and desperate hope: “Everybody loves a winner, so nobody loves me,” but “maybe this time I’ll win.” And somehow we believe her, this time. Because after all, “This Is My Life.” It’s at first the merely stoic acceptance of both the good and the bad of life, which is transformed into utter exaltation and a bold approval of it all. This Is My Life by Irene Soderberg is a slice of her life that we can easily relate to as part of our life. Let it be part of your life!

Irene Soderberg's "This Is My Life": A Triumph. Magnificent!!

Listen to Irene Soderberg's version of "My Man" on this CD, and melt in the lyrical and sensual beauty of early days of Paris cabaret. Then switch to "On Broadway"" and let your body shake and bake under the glitters of Broadway...and the piece of resistance is "This Is My Life" which bursts in bubbly rhythm, fabulous arrangements and Irene magnetizing voice. You will love this CD, for it has that panache that teases you, that aromatic sensual flair, piano virtuosity, sexy drums strokes and an inviting and "amoroso" touch whispering through the brass section. In other words, "This Is My Life" is a CD for all seasons. A world class release. First rate. Rating: 4 stars out of five. Add it to your collection!-Reviewer: Maximillien de Lafayette.
Irene is listed in the World Who's Who in Jazz, Cabaret, Music and Entertainment 2007