Liberté, Egalité, Jacqueline
By Jeanne Lieberman
An evening with Jacqueline Jonee (aka John Neiman) is like
getting two for one! Guess what! She’s not just another pretty face. She can
also play the devil out of a grande piano with scintillating original
arrangements that will inspire your compete attention. Behind the gorgeous,
charming, superbly coiffed, flawlessly made up, glamorously coutoured diva,
with the flirtatious demeanor that we know and love, shamelessly flirting with
her admirers…(”Do you think I’m underdressed?” she purrs, drawing attention to
her demure red ball gown and
matching lips) is the delightful
discovery that la Jonee is a grand talent.
She will regale you with fluffy repartee, like the premise
that her agent, Aneeda Gig, who handles such clients as James Levine, Rose
Levine, Deborah Voight and Rhonda Flaming (the new Miss Cherry’s), has mixed up
her assignments, sending Rose to the Last Drag Queen Standing show at the
Mitchell Lama Lava Lounge in the South Bronx, while she landed…where? “The
AARP, er APCG theater in the Grove”
“Wake up and smell the latte” she exhorts her audience.
Surrounded by her “Bayshore Boys”, the Jou Jou Jacquettes orchestra: Jason
Tobias Matteo on bass, John Bollinger, percussion,
Josh Sarpen, cello and Mchael Vannonni, viola, she launched into Johanne Strauss’
classic Blue Danube waltze, spicing it up with Gershwin’s Prélude III, and some Chopin
Etude in F, Op.10. No 3, for variety. A little rocky at the start she remarked
“this is where I spilled some spaghetti on the score” (obviously preparing for
some errors with a ready ad lib). She then rallied to a near perfect
Wasting no time she seriously attacked her “Classique Jazz”
segment mixing it up with another gorgeous waltz, Elegy based on Chopin Valse
Op. 64, No. 2 and Prélude Op. 28, No. 10, then surprising us with Ellington’s “Jubilee
Stomp” and a Billy Strayhorn treatment of “Satin Doll”.
It was alternately soothing, cool and jazzy.
A little opera to show off her French, “Ah Quel Diner Je Viens de Faire” by Offenbach was followed by
an invasion of the “Leviniacs of Roseland”, the Jou Jou Jacquettes Chorus:
Keith Butler, Angelo Cilia, Alex Goro, Michael Morisi, David Phan and David
Reilly (leave it to Jacqueline to surround herself with cute guys) plunging them into another intriguing mix of classic and contemporary: Andalucia (“The
Breeze and I”) by E. Lucuona,
Sympathique by C. Forbes and L. Lauderdale and the ever popular Cole Porter “Begin the Beguine”.
A bogus telegram from Levine delivered by beloved
postmistress Jeanne Skinner provided some pointed moments of levity.
Announcing proudly that she is a new grandmamma to Madeline,
7 lbs 6 ozs, she dedicated her next medley ” to all the special people in our
lives who have given us laughter and joy…and even life” with a brilliant
arrangement of Gershwin/Sondheim “Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me//Not While I’m Around and “I
Wonder Who’s Kissing Him Now”, It was sweet and sentimental and
touched the heartstrings of her rapt audience. Once more Jacqueline had them
right under her fingers.
Revealing the depth of her emotion Jonee introduced the next
number with a sober reflection on the ongoing struggle of gays in the world
with a quietly stirring solo with bass accompaniment, a spotlight only on her
painted face, in homage to a great gay champion, with Charles Aznavour’s “What Makes A Man A Man”
An odd introduction, Grieg’s Prélude to a Hungarian Bohemian
Rhapsody, with some Rachmananoff and Brahms interspersed, soon sequed into a
rousing medley of Gershwin
standards including “Biding My Time”, “Fascinating Rhythm”, “S’Wonderful”,
“Strike up the Band” which was breathtaking in its creativity and virtuosity.
Jacqueline concluded with “I’ve Got Rhythm”, a special
arrangement of the gay anthem “I Am What I Am” and a stirring “Somewhere Over
It was a heart warming, intelligent, deeply felt, carefully
researched and creatively articulated performance that brought a flood of
emotion over me and, yes, tears to my eyes in gratitude and admiration. Classic, contemporary, creative, complex, classy - what more can
one say? Brava Diva!.