“JILLIAN LAURAIN, A CLASS ACT WHOSE TALENT RUNS AS DEEP AND WIDE AS A MIGHTY RIVER. SHE IS THE KIND OF PERFORMER THAT THE WAVES OF YOUNG ACTORS AND ACTRESSES NEW TO OUR CITY SHOULD BE COMING TO SEE, TO LEARN FROM A MASTER.”
KEVIN SCOTT HALL, CRITIC FOR BISTROAWARDS.COM
JILLIAN LAURAIN, award-winning concert artist, appeared first in New York City at Rick Newman’s “Catch A Rising Star”, and The Improv. She later performed with the Eddie Chamblee Quartet at Sweet Basil’s and with the Hey Jackson Trio at Jimmy Weston’s. She produced her successful one-woman shows at Danny’s Skylight Room which she later took on the road. Ms. Laurain went on to enjoy an international career performing at Ronny Scotts in London and La Scimmia in Milan. Her work in Musical Theatre was at the Gateway Playhouse in Bellport, Long Island, in productions of the Sound of Music, Most Happy Fella, and Gypsy. She performed in regional theatre throughout Westchester County and other Summer stock productions as Maria in West Side Story, Babe in The Pajama Game, and Nellie Forbush in South Pacific. Two of her outstanding dramatic roles include Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire, and Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virgina Wolf. She is best known for her stirring portrayal as Aldonza in an Off-Broadway production of Man of La Mancha. Jillian played the Queen of the Night in Hypatia at the Actors Studio. Prior to crossing over onto the musical theater stage, Ms. Laurain enjoyed a successful career as an opera singer. She received her training from the Juilliard School of Music studying under Madame Marion Freshl. She later studied with Vincent LaSelva, founder of New York Grand Opera. She continued her studies in Modena, Italy where she was a favored pupil of Maestro Campogalliani, renowned teacher of Pavarotti and Tebaldi. In Italy, critics agreed, “Ms. Laurain gave a sultry and commanding performance as Carmen. Her rich mezzo sound was daring and seductive.” Ms. Laurain has performed at the 92St Y, Iguana VIP Lounge, Triad NYC and Metropolitan Room. In 2011 she brought her show “Hello, Gorgeous!” A Tribute To Barbra Streisand to the Laurie Beechman Theatre and the Metropolitan Room. In 2012, she was seen again at the Metropolitan Room with her show Rhythmic Infusion and with her quartet at Jazz at Kitano in Kitano Hotel on Park Avenue in NYC. Jillian appeared at The Town Hall in Christmas of 2013 with Marilyn Maye, Christine Andreas and Leslie Uggams. She was awarded the 2014 Bistro Award for “Outstanding Vocalist” for her hit show “My Broadway” 100 Years Of The Great White Way. More recent shows have included, “The Rhythms Of My Life” and “Romanza.” Jillian is currently in rehearsal where she will be bringing back her highly acclaimed show “Hello Gorgeous” – A Tribute To Barbra Streisand. She continues to teach all aspects of proper vocal usage targeting breath support,diction and musicality in her studio in Manhattan.
From the Press
Jillian Laurain carried herself with the grace of an accomplished, confident performer, and carried us to fabulous heights with her voice’s passionate depth of emotion and tone. When she delivered a splendid and misty-eyed “I’ll Be Seeing You,” she had my heart in her hands. Having gotten her start in opera, Laurain had a somewhat operatic style and flair to her performance. This was “her way” of doing things and it worked out really well. Each song rang deeper and truer than the last, as she weaved her way through some of her Broadway favorites, including a simply terrific version of Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice’s “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.” She also showed that she could be a little sultry and a little funny adding a song from a show in which she performed, Man of La Mancha‘s “Aldonza,” which has the line, “Cross my palm with a coin/and I’ll willingly show you the rest!”
Joining her on stage was the terrific trio of Ian Herman (musical director and pianist), Tom Hubbard (double bass), and David Silliman (percussion). They were fabulous accompanists, and Herman showcased his skill by playing a stellar piano composition that couldn’t help but remind me of Tchaikovsky. Laurain capped off the classy evening, adding a pair of fur-trimmed gloves to her already stunning outfit, for another Lloyd Weber classic, “With One Look” (lyrics: Don Black/Christopher Hampton/Amy Powers). With one look, indeed, she broke my heart. Look for her upcoming show at Don’t Tell Mama on Saturday, December 16.”
Broadway Her Way, Cabaret Scenes, Chris Struck
“Jillian Laurain bills herself as a concert artist, but she’s so very much more. She is a consummate performer in the style of which it can be said, “they don’t make ‘em like that anymore.” Laurain is a diva in the purest sense of the word – a singer of magnitude and presence, with an appreciation of style and glamour not much seen these days. In fact, she began in opera, and her classical training underpins much of her musical theater and pop style. Laurain’s operatic beginnings were most evident in three numbers, “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man (Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein II) from Showboat, and from Porgy and Bess (George and Ira Gershwin), “Summertime” and “I Loves You Porgy” – all powerfully sung. Laurainpossesses beautiful technique and control, coupled with a well-honed capacity for story-telling. She has deftly handled heavy-duty roles in dramatic plays, such as Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire, and Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf. Very affecting were intense renditions of “I’ll Be Seeing You” from Right This Way (Sammy Fain/Irving Kahal), a song very personal to her, and “At the Ballet” (Marvin Hamlisch/Edward Kleban) from A Chorus Line. It turns out the diva was on a track to be a ballerina before physical issues forced a switch to singing.
Laurain had introduced her set as music from Broadway shows she wished she could have been in – but in point of fact, the singer has had a very rewarding career in regional musical theater in shows such as Gypsy, Sound of Music, West Side Story and South Pacific. On her wish list, however, were big diva numbers befitting her capacity to possess the stage.Laurain is, if nothing, grandly and majestically theatrical. When she sings “Aldonza” (Mitch Leigh/Joe Darion) from Man of La Mancha and “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” (Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice) from Evita, it is a happening that expands the song into much more than mere words and music. She is firmly in character, giving the effort a powerful mini dramatic arc of its own. Likewise, with the sardonic “I Don’t Remember Christmas” (David Shire/Richard Maltby, Jr.) from Starting Here, Starting Now, Laurain wrings layers of meaning out of every nook and cranny of the song, hitting a range of emotion from start to finish, and ending with a finality that makes an unmistakable statement. Laurain dispatches ballads effortlessly, such as a slow-tempo “Time Heals Everything” (Jerry Herman) from Mack and Mabel, and handles jazz surprisingly well. “Hit Me With a Hot Note” (Duke Ellington/Don George), which appeared in Sophisticated Ladies, is a swinging tune that could easily have fallen flat. Not so with Laurain; her interpretation was in the groove with just enough swing to bolster the Broadway-style arrangement.
At her insistence, and to the great good fortune of her audience, Ian Herman, Laurain’s classically-trained music director and pianist, played a composition of his own – a lush and beautiful work reminiscent of the best of the Romantic period of Schumann and his peers. Overall, Herman’s arrangements and playing meshed perfectly with the grandeur of Laurain’s style. Tom Hubbard on upright bass, using plenty of bowing technique throughout, stood out especially on “I’ll Be Seeing You” as well as delivering a beautifully phrased solo on “Hit Me With a Hot Note.” Providing percussion was the talented and attuned, David Silliman. Together, these players were more than their individual parts, producing a big sound that belied their status as a trio.”
Broadway Her Way, Cabaret Scenes, Marilyn Lester
It’s hard to find the right superlative for Jillian Laurain, a class act whose talent runs as deep and wide as a mighty river. Here is a woman who trained and worked as an opera singer early in her career and then moved on to roles on the musical theatre stage as well as taking on two of the biggest acting assignments in the American repertoire, Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Ñamed Desire and Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Her singing is almost without peer and her acting has great power. And yet somehow, in the intimacy of a cabaret room, she is completely accessible, able to have a neighborly rapport with her audience. Laurain is the kind of woman you want to have a couple of drinks with after the show, no matter what your persuasion. She has a little sass and plenty of sex appeal, but she could also be your best friend.
In her latest show, she ambitiously takes on about one hundred years of Broadway (more accurately, from the 1920s to the 1990s), which allows her to display a tremendous range of musical styles, emotions, and characters. After opening with the apt “Broadway Baby” (Stephen Sondheim) from 1971’s Follies, the show is presented in mostly chronological order. Early on, “Fascinating Rhythm” (George & Ira Gershwin), done with a varied tempo, displays Laurain’s showbiz flair—she can strike a theatrical, divaesque pose, but it’s never too much and there is never a wasted gesture. She begins “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” (Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein II) a cappella, languidly, as a woman comfortable with her situation, but when she comes back a second time to the words, “He can come home as late as can be,” she expresses full-bodied passion, an unstoppable force that her man won’t be able to escape when he walks through the door.
I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone invest so much in the story of “Johnny One Note” (Rodgers & Hart), a song that many singers toss off for an easy laugh. Laurain is at her very best when called to show the deepest extremes of emotion, so her reading of “So in Love” (Cole Porter) is also fully realized. Also, the simple declarative nature of “Somewhere” (Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim) allows her to “just sing” and in so doing, she makes it as moving as it was meant to be.
Laurain shifts gears a bit in the more modern pieces. As glorious as those operatic tones are, with Kander & Ebb’s “All That Jazz”, she shrugs off that vibrato as easily as she might have shrugged a boa off her shoulders, and she reaches into her commanding chest voice. It is slow and sultry, building to a showstopper. “At the Ballet” (Marvin Hamlisch, Edward Kleban) is an acting tour de force—by the time she gets to the last line, “I was pretty, I was happy…at the ballet,” it is almost as if she were looking in a mirror and no longer believed it. Devastating.
Musical director Barry Levitt is masterful with this material, as is Marco
Panascia on bass and drummer Ed Ornowski, who has a few memorable solo turns. To execute such a range of great material from the 20th Century is no easy task, and the trio is marvelous.
Jillian Laurain is the kind of performer that the waves of young actors and actresses new to our city should be coming to see, to learn from a master. I have no idea why she hasn’t been discovered by Broadway producers yet, but this show demonstrates that she’s still very much in the game.
Kevin Scott Hall, Bistro Awards Review
“Jillian Laurain is a knockout both visually and vocally. Her new show My Broadway: 100 Years of the Great White Way, featured a set of songs right in the former opera singer’s powerful vocal wheelhouse infused with outstanding arrangements from Musical Director Barry Levitt who is simpatico with Laurain’s musicality and temperament.
Laurain attained her first of many “bravas!” of the night with a stirring rendition of “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man of Mine” and a soaringly operatic “My Man’s Gone Now”. Her nightingale-like sound has a soothing quality – numbers that were terrific fits for Laurain’s flowery mezzo-soprano.
Levitt didn’t help Laurain throw the cabaret equivalent of a no-hitter, he guided her into pitching a tantalizing complete-game musical victory that wowed the Metropolitan Room audience from the opening notes.”
Stephen Hanks, Cabaret Scenes
“A rare blend: A beautiful classically trained voice and classic supper-club elegance, meshed with perceptive interpretations, a flare for the dramatic, and the ability to be equally persuasive whether singing with exquisite delicacy or getting down and wailing.”
Roy Sander, critic for BistroAwards.com
“Taking on the Streisand songbook not only requires talent, it takes humor, emotion and, most of all, chutzpah, all of which Laurain displayed in spades during her one-performance-only show. It’s hard not to relate to and pull for an entertainer paying passionate tribute to her musical muse, especially when that hero is one of the greatest singers to ever grace a stage or screen. But talk about a tightrope walk! Too much stylistic interpretation and you run the risk of turning off an audience intimately familiar with the material and the sound. Too much homage and you fall into a morass of mimicry.
But Jillian Laurain brings too many years of experience in opera and cabaret singing to step on those tribute show land mines. Throughout her 19-song set (plus the opening medley, which began perfectly with “Look at That Face” from Roar of the Greasepaint… and ended with “I’m the Greatest Star” from Funny Girl), Laurain was touchingly reverential but always stayed true to her own powerful and technically proficient voice (with the exception of the obligatory Streisand-esque “Hello, Gorgeous” greeting at the end of the medley). Looking lovely in black from neck to toe, including a classily feminine tuxedo jacket, Laurain launched into a musical Babs biography, delivering those dreamy ballads from Streisand’s early albums and television specials.
…If the midpoint of the set had a theme, it wasn’t about the choice of songs or a particular period of Streisand’s career. It was more about Jillian expressing her deeply personal adult life journey through emotionally charged songs such as “He Touched Me” (Milton Schafer/Ira Levin) from the My Name Is Barbra, Two album, a lovely “unplugged” version of “Why Did I Choose You?”
…The final third of the set fittingly focused on Streisand’s greatest movie hits and the order of the songs was almost operatic in structure. The sequence began with Laurain’s evocative “Evergreen” (from A Star Is Born) and transitioned into a wistful “The Way We Were” before reaching a crescendo with the classic Funny Girl songs: “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” “People,” and “My Man.” There was only one more place for this daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants to go, and when she soared on “A Piece of Sky,” from Yentl, it wasn’t just Jillian Laurain that was flying, but her entire audience.”
Stephen Hanks, critic for Cabaret Scenes April 9, 2011 cabaretscenes.com
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