Baby Jane Dexter
The Rules Of the Road – Her Way!
Metropolitan Room

babyjanedexter

 

Baby Jane Dexter has always been a spellbinder. Perhaps, never moreso than now, after a year dominated by personal loss and health issues. Every syllable resonates from a place within. Her every word defines one who has faced the good, the bad and the ugly on equal footing. At this stage of her career, her every nuance takes on greater meaning than in the past. Many in the room are aware that she has stumbled and, in true Dexter resilience, got right up and continued the journey. The lady is not a quitter. Consequently, another show is yet a winner.      


 In a set that cleverly reprises some mainstays fused with raw, new gems that jolt, the new show is even more powerful than past outings. The late musician Billy Roy, best known as longtime musical director for Julie Wilson and others, is even represented. Few knew of his songwriting abilities. Early on, as Dexter recites his blues-tinged Bargain Day, a unique discovery, one can't help noting that Roy might have gone a different route if he chose. Dexter declares: It's bargain day - wanna buy a heart? Mine is torn apart … I'll sell it cheap or maybe I could trade it in for a happier model. It's quite amazing how one (unknown) song can say so much about the human heart – and lay the groundwork for what lies ahead in a compelling and moving hour. Collectively, the words are vivid testaments of love that settles for less. It follows Joe Ely's, Settle For Love. The two are manifestos that begin a disjointed journey of disappointment and hope that becomes empowering. Mostly, it sets the stage for a starry-eyed running theme throughout the hour that cries out as the show reaches its pique.

BJD performance

 

 The unlikely choice of Rufus Wainwright's The Art Teacher, about a schoolgirl crush   that never left, might have been a throw-away ditty in lesser hands. Here, Dexter's message enhances the journey: I was just a girl then ...never have I loved since then. Abbey Lincoln's I Got Thunder segues into the most shattering moments of the show that has her reprising her own, controversial 15 Ugly Minutes (written with Drey Shepperd,) about a personal experience. This might be the riskiest song ever sung in an intimate room. It was met with sustained applause. A booming This Is A Man's World is the perfect follow-up as is the teasingly perverse Chickie, Chickie (also written with Sheppard) a chauvinistic taunt told  from the female perspective. This compilation packs a dramatic wallop that no other performer today could pull off in a cabaret setting. It makes a shattering statement for women's rights. It also creates an illustrative narrative on a subject that is overpowering in its message. Each song was met with sustained cheers. It sets the tone for the remainder of her program that ends on a positive note. With less narration than in the past, oldies like I Put A Spell On You, the second half leads into Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington's plaintive Something To Live For that is heartbreaking. Eric Hansen's bouncy Big Bodied Woman breaks the spell and opens the door to moving up the mountain. A new find, End Of the World (Matt Alber) is haunting. The Elton John-Bernie Taupin Never Too Old sums up a lifetime of an artist with a lot more living to do. And, aren't we lucky for that! In a world of ordinary performers, Dexter remains a masterclass in truth-telling non pareill. And, along the way, she shares the rules of the road, her way. And, they're like no other. Go!

Baby Jane Dexter appears at Metropolitan Room on weekends through December 22.
Reservations: (212) 206 0440