Tammy Faye Starlite, the inventive alt-cabaret singer and impersonator, inhabited her new character Tamar — an Israeli chanteuse who is half folk artist, half shmaltzy disco diva — brilliantly and boldly in her show “Yesterday, Today and Tamar!,” Oct. 14 at the downtown New York club, Pangea. If you are looking to break lingering pandemic blues, I suggest you see the show, which has two more dates (Oct. 21 and Oct. 28.)
With her rich and powerful voice, Tamar made us laugh and, at times, cringe. Dressed, possibly by Loehmann’s, in an orange-peach ball gown and generously applied blue eye shadow — a nod to a bad cosmetic choice many of us made in the ’70s — Tamar spoke of her multiple Merv Griffin appearances, Marlene Dietrich, artists’ suffering, and love. We heard her interpretations of songs by Leonard Cohen and The Moody Blues in Hebrew.
Forbidden by reasons not fully shared with the audience, Tamar cannot perform in Israel, so the diaspora and their friends packed the club and demonstrated enthusiasm for Tamar’s sincerity and chutzpah.
Wearing a Star of David the size of a baseball, Tamar told us she usually plays in larger venues such as Leonard’s of Great Neck, so we understood that her appearance at Pangea was special. Indeed, her press materials inform us that her appearance in New York is “rare, yet tax-deductible.”
As is characteristic of Starlite’s other impersonations of blonde singers, including Marianne Faithfull and Nico, Tamar’s essence went beyond kitsch. She invited us to think about peace and suffering when she sang the anti-war song “Yo Lisa Goy” in Hebrew, then mentioned her good friend Jackson Browne when introducing her rendition in Hebrew of his song “These Days” (see video below).
Tamar spoke with the audience as if they were fans and knowledgeable of her career achievements, including winning a Belarusian song contest and acting in Golan-Globus film productions such as “The Fig Bush.”
Tamar told us that the Torah guides her but that she also finds solace in episodes of “Murder She Wrote.” As mentioned in a prior article, Tamar is an enigma — a fictional character who likes to explain herself by responding to questions with an emphatic “Of course!”
Tamar was accompanied by a sensational band (which often also accompanies Starlite), including Starlite’s husband Keith Hartel, Richard Feridun, Eszter Balint and David Nagler. While Starlite knows these musicians well, Tamar could not remember their names onstage.
Starlite’s characters demand that we question the cultural and political status quo and Starlite succeeds in bringing her characteristic irreverent defiance and literary allusions to Tamar as well.
Starlite always leaves me laughing — but a bit melancholy, too, reflecting on serious subjects referenced throughout her shows.
The show was co-written by Starlite and Rachel Lichtman, and directed by Lichtman. For information, visit pangeanyc.com/music.
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