Holly Penfield definitely walks to her own beat. The Bay Area native turned London cabaret star is more than just a savvy chanteuse. She’s a blithe spirit of her own unique creation, wrapped in quirky self-made costuming, coyly roaming the audience and brandishing her trademark riding crop. Idiosyncrasies aside, when she opens her mouth and gets down to business, Penfield is a force to be reckoned with. Her Rhythm of Life pulsates with energy, bravado and old fashioned pizzazz.
Her opening suite of tunes set the tone of the evening: a sexy “Some Like It Hot” (Matty Malneck and I.A.L. Diamond) from the film of the same name, the rambunctious “A Lot of Livin to Do” (Lee Adams / Charles Strouse) from Bye Bye Birdie into a sizzling “I Want To Be Evil” (Lester Judson / Raymond Taylor). Backed by Larry Dunlap on piano, Pat Klobas on bass and David Rokeach on drums, Penfield included two delightful comic tunes; Ray Davies’ Kink’s hit “Demon Alcohol”, a cautionary tale of booze and floozies and a Samba beat cover of Bill Crompton and Norman Murrell’s “House of Bamboo”, a novelty hit for Andy Williams in 1959.
Penfield brought her own interpretations to Garland standards “The Man That Got Away” (H. Arlen / I. Gershwin) and “Swanee” (G. Gershwin / I. Caesar) with the original opening verse. A talented songwriter, Penfield took to the piano to sing “It’s Always Been You” (Gene Barkin / Penfield), a beautiful love song from her CD Parts of My Privacy. Certainly a set highlight, as was her raucous closing mashup of her original “Chance to Dance (Gene Barkin / Penfield), and “Rhythm of Life” (Cy Coleman / Dorothy Fields), originally a Sammy Davis Jr. vehicle from Sweet Charity.
Penfield quoted Garland who said “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”. Penfield is most assuredly a unique self-creation and strives to be the best she can be.