Andrea Marcovicci, Jeff Harnar

The 23rd New York Cabaret Convention
Salute to Cole Porter: Swellegant!

Andrea Marcovicci, Jeff Harnar

Andrea Marcovicci and Jeff Harnar (photo, above) arguably two of Donald Smith’s favorite people, opened last night’s show jauntily singing “Let’s Fall in Love.” Phrasing was as simpatico as their joint approach to an audience; both lean in and address individuals with as much intimacy as one can garner from venue this size. The tone in Rose Hall lifted as it relaxed into an exceedingly well put together, ebullient and celebratory evening. Performers warmly introduced one another as if passing the baton.

Steve Ross, Colleen McHugh, Ann Hampton Callaway

We began with an artist who has had a self-avowed “requited love affair with Cole Porter for 5 decades.” What can one say? Steve Ross is the real deal, the epitome, as the French would say, de trop. His “De-lovely” (piano and vocals) was elegant, insouciant, and wry. Instrument and voice seemed one. “Donald’s favorite Episcopalian song writer” would’ve smiled broadly. An eclectic, sweetly delivered second choice from Rosalie, illuminated Porter’s earlier, sentimental writing.

Colleen McHugh, whose Prêt-à-Porter show and CD has guaranteed a very Porter year, sang “I Happen to Like New York” in pristine balladic fashion. Her clear, soaring, mid level vocal has an appealing after-effect vibrato. Ann Hampton Callaway followed with “What Is This Thing Called Love?” and a song for which she wrote the music to an unearthed Porter lyric. Performance was jazzy and robust. Callaway has an inner traffic cop that redirects notes.

T. Oliver Reid, Jennifer Sheehan, Maude Maggart

T. Oliver Reid, who spent his childhood glued to movie musicals on TMC, gave us a low key “Do I Love You?” comprised of 8 empathetic bars and jazzy second half. His smoky, stage-whispered “Night and Day” was enhanced by the presence of Jennifer Sheehan who wandered on as if being dreamed and leaned into a few graceful dance steps with him. Sheehan then continued the song with pure, romantic focus. Her reverent rendition of “In the Still of the Night” evoked dinner jackets and swaying chiffon.

“Love for Sale” took on new color under the aegis of Maude Maggart. Instead of the cynical, resigned streetwalker, we heard a story filled with the pathos of someone young and desperate. The petite Maggart has a voice which seemed frightened and still innocent in opposition to the lyric. Marcovicci and Harnar read a charming bit of Porter on Porter including “I am spending my life escaping boredom, not because I am bored, but because I don’t want to be.” After which Marcovicci, leaving for her engagement at Cafe Carlyle, imbued the ironic “Let’s Not talk About Love” with just the right sophistication. Unlike most contemporary versions, original references to the then famous were unadjusted.

Andrea Marcovicci, Billy Stritch, Marilyn Maye

Act II opened with dapper Billy Stritch singing/playing a lilting “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and jazzy, cha-cha rendition of “I Get a Kick Out of You.” The crooning entertainer has allegiance to lyrical intention and knows exactly where to pause. Marilyn Maye’s “It’s All Right With Me” was all pith and ginger. Her phrasing continues unique, her pipes seem unspoiled, stage presence is consummate, and she makes it all look deceptively easy. A great, waltzy arrangement of “Anything Goes” followed as Maye sashayed across the stage with seasoned aplomb. “That’s kinda how it’s done, isn’t it?” Stritch commented.

Daryl Sherman, Todd Murray, Anna Bergman

Jazz performer Daryl Sherman offered two Porter numbers “New Orleans-style.” “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” with acknowledgment to Celeste Holm’s wonderful film version from High Society, was almost unrecognizable. Sherman’s hands move quickly and with originality, but her voice is wispy and songs seem only starting points. The classically trained Anna Bergman performed a sumptuous duet of “So in Love” with Todd Murray that emulated the depth and vigor of its originators, Alfred Drake and Patricia Morison. Murray, the find of the evening as far as I’m concerned, introduced “Don’t Fence Me In” with the cleverest, most unlikely set up I’ve encountered in some time. His interpretation of the song was sexy, charming and original; his baritone splendid. And he acts.

Karen Akers, Jeff Harnar, Clint Holmes

Karen Akers, of whom we see too little these days, gave us two of Porter’s best odes to Paris, one in pristine French, and “Where Have You Been?” prefaced by the insightful observation that “even his blues are optimistic.”Akers is at home with this material. Its eloquence and class innately suit her. Someone find this woman a night club! Harnar then returned resplendent in a white dinner jacket. “Porter wrote four categories of songs: I want to be in love, I am in love, I was in love, and Can-Can.” The host’s performance of the last was exuberant and filled with panache. He played with the verses-all of them-enacting without ever becoming too broad.

From his current show, a salute to Paul Simon and Cole Porter, Clint Holmes began an easy “Feelin’ Groovy” (Simon) which segued unexpectedly into a delicate and exaggeratedly balladic “De-lovely.” (Porter) The unhurried arrangement was artful. Holmes felt no need to raise either his voice or octave to indicate intensity (take note, young singers.) Sensitive piano and percussive brushes reined. Terrific! A jazzy, up-tempo “You’re the Top” finished solo contributions with the vocalist’s deep, rich voice rising to the chandeliers. The evening closed with a sing-along of “True Love” from the musical film High Society. A swellegant affair.

The 23rd New York Cabaret Convention
Salute to Cole Porter
An Evening of Donald Smith’s Favorite Composer
Hosted by Andrea Marcovicci and Jeff Harnar
Daniel Fabricant-Bass, Sherrie Maricle-Drums, and a roster of fine pianists
Rose Theater
Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall
October 18, 2012

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