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If you prefer icy dry irony to pop sentimentality for your Valentine’s music, don’t miss Julie Wilson, cabaret’s coolest queen, when she hits town next week after a two-year absence. A master of the sprechstimme style, which fuses singing and speech into an indivisible whole, this musical-theater veteran turns songs by the likes of Porter, Sondheim, and Arlen into tiny but complex dramas, putting a weathered voice and an original spin on even the most familiar material. Elegant, sexy, and thoughtful, she conveys the nuances of a lyric with the immediacy of a person turning over an idea for the first time and sharing it with her listener as a way of making sense of it herself. Previously a mainstay of the Gold Star Sardine Bar, Wilson on this visit has a new home–but, happily, she’s kept her old pianist, the marvelously intuitive Billy Roy. Wednesday, 9 and 11 PM, Thursday, 8 and 10 PM, and next Friday and Saturday, February 16 and 17, 9 and 11 PM, Toulouse Cognac Bar, 2140 N. Lincoln Park West; 665-9071. ALBERT WILLIAMS

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.