Janet Klein and Her Parlor Boys

Janet Klein singing at McCabe’s in Santa Monica, California, with seven of her eight Parlor Boys

Janet Klein studied the gestures and expressions of the silent screen stars, collected the clothes, graphics, recordings and sheet music of their time, injected her own intelligence and joie de vivre, and evolved a character so convincingly authentic and yet so lighthearted and witty that she has stage presence for miles. Each of the three performances I’ve attended in LA was packed, and many audience members told me they were regulars.

Everything moves on Janet’s face when she sings. In between songs, she jumps for joy and flounces around. Miraculously, nothing she does is corny. Eyebrows raise when she dances, lifting her long skirt to expose long calves and ‘20’s style character shoes, with T straps and Cuban heels.

Janet listens raptly to a trumpet solo.

Her shows include surprises. The second show I saw was a Fanny Brice variety show, with comedians, knife throwers, and a redheaded flapper who would dance on and off stage bearing a sign that said “Applause.” That was the first time I heard Janet sing with a Yiddish accent. This year at the Steve Allen Theatre in Hollywood, she’s got a fabulous early film archivist sharing his treasures as the first set of her show. She’s there the first Thursday of each month.

The sheer number of musicians on stage with her staggers the senses: Seven or eight, most nights. At the last show, I counted two guitars, two violins, a tuba AND an upright bass, a piano AND an accordion, and, at one point, two cornets and a slide trombone. (No drums!) Musicologist and performer Ian Whitcomb, descended from the British music hall entertainer who wrote “Let’s All Sing Like the Birdies Sing,” always sings at least one solo, plays a panoply of instruments, and delights the audience with his dry humor.

Janet Klein and Her Parlor Boys have many albums out now, each loaded with retro gems of song and graphic art.  Both her CDs and downloads are available from Amazon.