Gowned and glittering, Ann Kittredge brought glamour to Birdland Theater Monday with her aptly cinematic Movie Nite. The salute consisted of songs spanning 90 years of film from Gold Diggers to La La Land. Many were familiar; Kittredge – one of our thinking performers – also offered eclectic selections. The artist was accompanied by two of the best, Alex Rybeck and Sean Harkness.
A mid-tempo, dancey “As Time Goes By” (Herman Hupfeld from 1931’s Everybody’s Welcome) accompanied Kittredge’s long-lined, limpid vocal. Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne’s “10,432 Sheep” (from West Point Story) arrived wryly perturbed, ending with the performer’s head on Rybeck’s shoulder. Theatrical flair also animated 1943’s “They’re Either Too Young or Too Old” (Frank Loesser/Arthur Schwartz from Thank Your Lucky Stars). Kittredge strutted and whirled imbuing the stage with fizzy energy.
From the War Song Section, “Hi Lili, Hi Lo” (Bonislau Kaper/Helen Deutch from Lili) and “Love Makes the World Go Round” (Bob Merrill from Carnival) sung to Alex Rybeck’s tender, music box piano (remember the whirling ballerina on top?) are as light as they are wistful. In this vein, “Ah Sweet Mystery of Life” (Victor Herbert from Naughty Marietta), beautifully arranged (by Rybeck) and played (by Harkness), is restrained and full of moonlit charm. Vocal control is wonderful.
Kittredge’s Torch Segment features “several great ladies who carried a torch for someone who didn’t deserve or reciprocate…” Musical introduction of “The Man That Got Away” leads instead to “Stormy Weather” (Harold Arlen/ Ted Koehler from the film of the same name). The vocalist builds through her first verse, then whomp! Her voice soars in pain, then retreats with realization. “Everything we had is gone,” she gasps, hand at her breastbone.
An embattled “My Man” (Maurice Yvain/Jacques Charles/Channing Pollack used in Funny Girl) is palpably adamant in this performer’s hands. Following it with “I Fall in Love Too Easily” (Jule Styne/Sammy Cahn from Anchors Aweigh) makes the song an embarrassed admission, a fine choice. Vibrato ripples as her eyes close. “And still,” she whispers, “I fall in love too easily…” Marvin Hamlisch’s “Memories” (from The Way We Were) is just lovely. Kittredge is a communicator; this song in particular is shared. She looks into eyes.
Rybeck’s clever arrangement of “You Made Me Love You” (James V. Monaco/ Joseph McCarthy from Broadway Melody of 1938) seamlessly incorporates snippets of iconic movie songs. An a capella “When You Wish Upon a Star” (Leigh Harline/Ned Washington from 1940’s Pinocchio) caps the show with radiance.
In my opinion, the opening of La La Land didn’t work well as a solo vocal. A fragment of “We’re in the Money” (Harry Warren/Al Dubin sung by Ginger Rogers in Gold Diggers of 1933) was deftly performed backwards with a joke about Rogers dancing backwards. This was followed by zesty Fred Astaire/Irving Berlin medley that might land better with longer excerpts from fewer choices.
Ann Kittredge gives her all and then some.
Photos by Helane Blumfield
Ann Kittredge – Movie Nite
Alex Rybeck- MD/Piano
Sean Harkness- Guitar
315 West 44th St.