Get ready for 60s-style Vegas glitz at Amagansett’s Stephen Talkhouse. Isabel Rose is bringing her swingin’ style to that rustic roadhouse, and it promises to be wild, unpredictable fun.
“I never do the same show twice,” says the singer, actress, and entertainer Isabel Rose. “At the Talkhouse, I’m going to add a definite rock element. It’s going to be beach glam. And fun—a lot of fun.”
Rose is appearing at the Stephen Talkhouse this Friday, August 15, which happens to coincide with the pre-order release of her latest album, Trouble in Paradise, on the BDG/RED label, a division of Sony. The album is a bit of a departure for Rose. Produced by Bob Rock, who is known for his work with Metallica and other hard-rock bands, Trouble in Paradise mixes in a lot more rock than her previous album Swingin’ from theHip. But it’s still a lot of fun.
There’s a reason Rose emphasizes fun. For Rose, fun is a principled stand. She revels in what she calls the “Vegas ’60s,” the ’60s of Ann-Margret and Diana Ross, when female performers wore false eyelashes and shimmering sequins, outfits that were meant to dazzle and that radiated joy.
And there were costume changes. “I will do at least one costume change at the Talkhouse,” she says, observing that it’s hard to work in a lot of changes if you don’t have a corp de ballet to hold people’s attention while you’re offstage changing outfits. Rose points with envy to Cher’s stage act, during which Cher, in addition to everything else, employs upwards of 30 wigs. Rose reveres this “more is better” style of entertaining because of the lost world it evokes. “I like to reference a time when people dressed up and hit the town, live music was everywhere, girls got dolled up, guys looked cool.” To bring that experience to the Talkhouse, Rose will be joined by a nine-piece band, including two background singers.
A good introduction to Rose’s style of fun is her YouTube music video for her cover of “Aquarius” from the musical Hair (see below). Not only does her version of the song sound like a forgotten classic from a mid-60s Sergio Mendez session with Brazil ’66, but the video shows Rose dressed as a ’60s-era swingin’ stewardess entertaining a plane filled with travelers in modern-day dress—including a couple joining the mile-high club. “I don’t really do raunchy myself, but I’m a facilitator,” she explains. “I bring the happy couple a cocktail!”
Perhaps Rose’s affection for the exaggerated colors and the heightened drama of the Vegas acts of the ’60s stems from her youthful immersion in the classic MGM movie musicals. On her website, she tells of Friday nights spent in the Technicolor world of Singing in the Rain and Meet Me In St. Louis, films that thrilled with spectacle and painted a world of glamour and glitz.
Despite her adoption of showbiz tropes of the ’60s, Isabel Rose is quick to note that she is not a kitsch act. “I love to drop into that world, but I’m about the here and now,” she says. “I’m very much a modern performer.” She is analytical about what she’s up to. That recording of “Aquarius” is a case in point: there’s a certain touch of knowing irony in taking a late-60s counter-culture anthem like “Aquarius” and reframing it as early-60s Vegas pop—Rose’s swingin’ stewardess character doesn’t seem to know what she’s singing about, but we certainly do. Certainly such culture clashes were fairly common in the ’60s (witness Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass cover of “Blowing in the Wind”), but Rose feels that it adds another layer to be creating such culture clashes today. “It’s like time travel,” she says. And maybe that’s the best way to think about Isabel Rose. She’s providing an opportunity for everybody to go back and experience a taste of that fun Vegas glitz.
Isabel Rose performs at the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett on August 15 at 8 p.m. For tickets ($30), visit stephentalkhouse.com.