European-born actress-singer Irina Maleeva has channeled a lifetime of globetrotting into a one-woman music/comedy revue that attempts to utilize an eclectic range of vocal material and sketch vignettes to guide the audience through an obtusely high-end trip around the world. Written and directed by Jack Wrangler, Maleeva’s act proves she is much more successful as a comedian than as a singer. Wrangler’s material makes good use of Maleeva’s exotic sophistication and adroit timing but cannot camouflage her vocal shortcomings.
Maleeva begins the show with the most successful vignette of the evening, portraying a monumentally egotistical Euro actress who can’t understand why her Blanche Du Bois portrayal has been panned by the press. “I got more laughs than that Vivien Leigh ever did,” she pouts.
Throughout the show, she utilizes this clueless femme-fatale persona to the hilt, musing that the reason one travels extensively is the eternal “quest for really good jewelry.”
“Irina … Abroad” features an exquisite array of musical material, but Maleeva does not possess the range, intonation or vocal quality to adequately communicate the songs. Competently accompanied by music director-pianist Paul Horner, Maleeva’s tentatively melodious travelogue repertoire includes such classics as “Any Place I Hang Me Hat Is Home” (Arlen-Mercer), “You Belong to Me” (Pee Wee King), “Slow Boat to China” (Frank Loesser), “Another Song About Paris” (David Frishberg), “The Maharajah of Magador” (Harris-Loeb), “Man in a Raincoat” (Warwick Webster) and “Travelin’ Light” (Johnny Mercer).
By far, the most ambitious routine of the evening is her tribute to Brazilian singer-actress Carmen Miranda. Adorned with Miranda’s signature “tutti fruitti” head covering, Maleeva plows through such Miranda standards as “Cuanta le Gusta,” “When I Love, I Love,” “Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay, I Love You Very Much,” and, of course, “The Lady With the Tutti, Fruitti Hat.” Maleeva has the moves down pat but is lacking when it comes to duplicating Miranda’s vocal virtuosity.