SAN FRANCISCO BAY TIMESVANDANA BALI AT MARTUNI'S. Opening her evening of cabaret songs with “Suddenly Seymour” in a duet with friend Bruce Phillips, who introduced her, Vandana Bali had no trouble sharing her three-octave range interspersed with tidbits about her personal life. This petite East Indian cabaret singer can belt out power ballads effortlessly. She also finds subtleties in softer, quieter moments with show tunes like Stephen Schwartz’s “With You” from Pippin and “Meadowlark” from the short-lived Baker’s Wife. Other numbers included works of Steven Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Gershwin, and Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child” where Ms. Bali got down with some real gutsy, guttural throat tones. Ms. Bali showed the most control and subtlety in “An Ordinary Day,” an original song by Dennis Livingston, a Boston cabaret song writer. In this, as in other numbers, her voice took on colors of Julie Andrews with a touch of Barbra Streisand, which may be a holdover from her upbringing. Born in India, she grew up in a New York household where she could hear legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar in one room and Streisand, The Police and the Beatles in the next. Most Indian music is based on stories set to music, and though classically trained, Ms. Bali feels it is this story-telling tradition that has drawn her to cabaret. Not shy, Ms. Bali likes to include her audience as part of the experience by enlisting their thoughts about what cabaret theatre is. The “best of Broadway without the chorus” might be one answer. “Love songs sung in an intimate setting, low lighting and warm tones”—which Martunii’s offers in spades—could be another. Ms. Bali premiered her “Power of Love” show at Martuni’s Piano Lounge last May. Ms. Bali was expertly accompanied by Victoria Theodore on piano for all but one a capella rendition of Gershwin’s “Summertime." Now a San Francisco resident, Ms. Bali made her Plush Room debut in October with her “Power of Love” show which she had performed previously at Don’t Tell Mama in New York City in July. Both shows met with enthusiastic audience response. For further information about future engagements or to purchase CD’s of Ms. Bali’s music, go to www.vandana.net.
SAN FRANCISCO BAY TIMESVANDANA BALI IN THE POWER OF LOVE (at the Plush Room) From chatty, informal patter to knock ‘em dead power ballads, cabaret singer Vandana Bali charms and astounds her audience. In her recent show titled The Power of Love at the Empire Plush Room, she offered an incredible variety of approaches to that powerfully irrational, yet irresistible, emotion. And what a glorious ride! Entering in a form-fitting dress of dusky rose, the svelte Bali takes command instantly. Opening with “Love Changes Everything (Andrew Lloyd Webber), she reveals a voice that maintains strength within a whisper and then so much more as the song builds. With her well-rounded tones, she subtly softens the anthem-like number. She then really lets out the stops with the power ballad titled “The Power of Love.” Switching gears again, she renders a sweet profession of love in Hoagy Carmichael’s “The Nearness of You.” Truly seeking variety, she sings a country-western tune titled “Greatest Love” (Austin Castillo, present at the show), an unpretentious profession of life-long devotion. Following “Someone to Watch Over Me” (Gershwin) and “As If We Never Said Goodbye” (Webber), she sings “An Ordinary Day” (Dennis Livingston) which details beauty and appreciation in the commonplace, with lyrics that weave a vividly visual tapestry. Our hearts beat a bit faster when she rendered a soulful “When He Shines.” This highlight was followed by another as she sang “Summertime” (Gershwin) a capella. Flawless. Some surprising rhythm variations came with Sondheim’s “Being Alive” and “Not While I’m Around,” and the beautiful “Meadowlark” (Stephen Schwartz) tells an exquisite story of loyalty. She finished her set with Schwartz’s beautiful “With You” from Pippin. Her encore song, which she hopes to sing one day at her own wedding, was the power ballad “Then You Look at Me.” Brava! Singer Bali makes it all look so simple and fun. Born in India and raised in NY, she began singing at age six and hasn’t stopped since. She goes from whisper to belt in about 1 second and always organically from the music. This classically-trained vocalist with a 3-octave range hits all the right notes with confidence and strength, and her tight vibrato is used sparingly. Her sense of dynamics and diction are flawless, and she can make the most surprising phrasing seem sublime. Bali’s between-song, high-energy patter is an absolute joy. Counterpointing her exotic beauty, she is delightfully accessible. Eager to communicate face-to-face with her audience, she mingles amongst the crowd, quizzing them on various subjects. Incredibly articulate, she flies from topic to topic with masterful ease. She talks of her friends in the audience who are about to be married, a singing stint in prison, her adorable sister (present at the show), and much more. By the end of the evening, it feels like time well spent with a good friend. Musical director Victoria Theodore also accompanies on piano. Her consistently strong playing is especially highlighted in “God Bless the Child” (Billie Holiday) where she really lets out the stops. Though Bali’s The Power of Love was a one-night-only event, the Bay Area and cabaret audiences will certainly see and hear more of this formidable talent. Hopefully, much more! For Vandana Bali ‘s calendar of upcoming performances, go to www.vandana.net .
TALKIN' BROADWAY VANDANA BALI AT THE EMPIRE PLUSH ROOM Young and rising cabaret singer Vandana Bali wowed the audience at the Empire Plush Room last night singing an eclectic group of songs from Broadway, popular and power songs. Her show is called “The Power of Love”. During her ninety minutes this lively young svelte woman exudes a great and warm personality. Ms. Bali who is classically trained has a three octave rang that she uses in her “power ballads”. She has a velvet voice when singing such songs as Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child” or Gershwin’s lovely “Someone to Watch over Me”. Her rendition of Hoagy Carmichael’s “The Nearness of You” showed the warm side of her vocal cords. The artist came onto stage dressed in a fantastic designer light red gown with sequins. She went immediately into one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sensuous songs “Love Changes Everything” from one of my favorite musicals Aspects of Love. She sung the song softly and dramatically. Ms. Bali then went into one of the power songs “The Power of Love” music by Candy Derouge and Gunther Mende and words by Mary Susan Applegate and Jennier Rush. I must admit I am not a fan of these kinds of songs ever since American Idol hit the television waves. Most of those contestants use these type of songs to gain attention. That said, she used all three octaves in this number. She did just one more “power song” toward the end of her 90 minute gig called “Then You Look at Me” with music by James Horner and lyrics by William Jennings. Ms. Vandana Bali went “countrified” singing local composer Austin Castillo’s “Greatest Love”. Vandana Bali really shines on Sondheim’s songs especially “Being Alive” from Company. She displayed astonishing force when singing the composer classic. She gave a poignant sound to “Not While I’m Around” from Sweeny Todd” and was first rate with Stephen Schwartz’s “Meadowlark’ from The Baker’s Wife and “With You” from Pippin. She gave a angelic sound to Gershwin’s” Summertime” singing it a cappella. Vandana Bali has a Sarah Vaughan quality about her in certain songs. She also has an operatic voice since she trained with Sylvia Kutchukian while at Skidmore. That shows in some of the power songs. The cabaret artist has great charisma with the audience. In fact, she cames into the audience to ask customers the burning question “What is cabaret”. She got a variety of answers from the patrons. Vandana Bali was assisted by Victoria Theodore who had some very fine solos in several of the above songs. Vandana Bali has several CD’s out including “The Power of Love” and “With You”. She is a very personable young lady and I wish her great fortune in the cabaret world.
CABARET HOTLINE ONLINEVANDANA BALI AT "DON'T TELL MAMA" (NYC) "I don't normally get to town on Sundays for cabaret, but a young lady was at the SWEET SIXTEEN party on the 6th and told me that her sister would be in town on Sunday the 9th to perform at DON'T TELL MAMA (343 West 46th Street, NYC - 1-212-757-0788 - http://www.donttellmama.com/ ) and even gave me some free passes for the show to raffle off. Thus I was at MAMA'S at 7:00 pm to enjoy Vandana Bali, with Dred Scott at the piano in a show called "The Power of Love." Speaking of power, Ms. Bali is blessed with powerful vocals, and her show, consisting mainly of showtunes and "power ballads" demonstrated her talents and skills to the utmost. It was a delightful hour of song and story. Born in India, raised in New York and making her home in San Francisco, Ms. Bali brings to the stage a combination of beauty, charm and grace. She has pure, clear vocals and crisp lyrical interpretation. There were a few times when a little less "power" - especially on the ballads - would have given more color and depth to the performance, but overall it was a fun show - well worth giving up my normal 'Sunday holiday' for."