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Hello, Dillie

 Michael Roulston and Dillie Keane. Photo by Carol Rosegg

By Eugene Paul


Cabaret queen Dillie Keane has been knocking them dead for 34 years in Britain and elsewhere ever since she invented her hit cabaret act, “Fascinating Aida”, the smash hit all girl group built around her ribald songs, words and music, based on the devilishly simple proposition that hearing these outrageousnesses tunefully delivered out of the mouths of svelte babes would be such shocking fun that only more would be better. She was right.  Awards, albums, TV, movies, the internet, cabarets, cabarets, cabarets.


 Now long proven right, older and no wiser, having outlasted her fellow cabaret players, Dillie has returned to New York as a single act, knowingly directed by Simon Green, backed by enthusiastically good Michael Roulston at the piano allowing Dillie to perform triple duty and it’s three times the fun.  Out of the myriad songs she’s written and performed over the years about the myriad vagaries of what constitutes her take on life, she’s winnowed an hour and a half of observations about love, some sage, some howlers, and she lets us have it right in the kisser, each song its own richly comic drama, couth, uncouth, clever, heartfelt, heartless.  What a dame.


I once knew a dame who was the best company in the world with the bluest mouth in the British Isles. Lady Jane.  A good deal of her charm was the delivery of her ripping utterances in a totally U accent, so upper class you hardly ever hear it any more.  It’s a nostalgic delight to bathe in Dillie’s impeccable syllables in that selfsame  assured arrogance, edged with a wicked, good natured self mockery.  So that when she acts out her “My Usual Morning”—who IS that in my bed?—with a jaded gusto any music hall top of the bill comic would give an eyetooth to master and it all comes out so plummy, it’s a rollabout delight.  “Morning” is one of the numbers she’s written with her partner Adele Anderson who lends a kind of rough rudeness to the lyrics  Dillie delights in performing.  Dillie’s own music and lyrics songs – there are five out of the sixteen in her U.S. program -- are a teeny bit nicer.  But not much.  I take that back.  Lord knows, her closing number, “One More Campaign”  could be performed by any battle scarred, Kiplingesque commanding general. With no less verve.



But Dillie? Dillie is an actress, a superb actress. Occasionally, she’ll be carried away with an anecdote acting out all the parts, especially the outlandish psychics, and you are laughingly rapt. And when she conjures up one of the swains and rakes from her black and blue life in her black and blue love songs, you are compelled to follow her gaze at the invisible culprit she’s drilling with her concentrated tongue lashings to see who else has been benefiting from her bashing.  Even more, when some tender reverie softens her defenses and down they come, you find yourself gulping, which is properly comedic and lovely at the same time and who can beat moments like that.  It’s her gift in wonder and indomitableness that’s so damned alluring.  She’s a peach, Okay, a ripe peach, but those are the best kind.


And what an incredible New York bargain.  Yes, you can get yourself a ticket any old time for Hamilton for $1249. In the balcony.  And here is Dillie, every bit as enjoyable for $25! In the front row!  Ten blocks away!  Now I ask you: is that a bargain or is that a bargain.  You cannot tell me that Hamilton is fifty times better entertainment.  And in the balcony, yet?  Not if you’re a New Yorker. And nobody, but nobody in New York speaks better English in any show than she does even in her most raucous numbers and when was the last time you heard that, pray tell? It’s not just the words, and the delivery, either.  She gets to you. She understands. She could be a friend.


Hello, Dillie.  At 59E59 Theaters. 59 East 59th Street near Park Avenue.  Tickets: $25. 212-279-4200. 95 Min. Thru July 3.