Nancy Anderson’s father had a terrific collection of vintage jazz LPs. These set her on a path of appreciation and exploration outside what became a musical theater career. At age nine, she learned “Ain’t She Sweet” on a battered ukulele. In private life and then cabaret performance, Anderson took to the music of the 1920s/1930s with innate recognition. Her 2005 CD Ten Cents A Dance irresistibly reflects the era.
Stylistically, the artist has it down. Successive lyric lines seamlessly meld. Selected words arc as octaves rise and fall. Back of throat vibrato is called forth to emphasize emotion. At a live show, one happily observes flapper moves that seem second nature. Anderson shimmies, shakes her shoulders, snaps her head, circles, prances, flirts, pouts and punches in frustration – never over the top.
As a young artist, Anderson bought an Artie Shaw tape based on the cover and fell in love. “I listen through the nostalgia,” she tells us. “These guys were the rock stars of their era.” Shaw’s “I’m So in Love With You” finds the vocalist suddenly serious after two upbeat numbers. Audibly deep intake of breath adds to expressive angst. The clarinet oozes regret. An actress, she holds fast to mood during instrumentals. As there was no sheet music for these selections, Patterson had to transcribe off the album.
“You’re Giving Me a Song and Dance” (Milton Ager/Marty Symes) was popularized by singer-with-the-band, Peg LaCentra…Now you want me cause you ain’t got me…Anderson shrugs with a jaded smile. A wink and a nod take us out. The performer is an expert with picture perfect exits, an arm raised, a back turned. “It Ain’t Right” (Bob Rothberg/Joseph Meyer) begins with pluck/slide bass sparking the audience to clap in time. The spirited dame on stage is having none it “it.” …ooo I’m out the door-yeah!.. “Darling Not Without You”(a perfectly in sync contribution by Anderson herself) is three martinis deep. Mellow bass creates resonant echo. Piano steps carefully, lightly.
From a Rogers and Hart show Anderson performed in London, we hear a medley of three songs with only deft piano accompaniment. “My Romance” is a particularly lovely treatment. All three of these delicious tunes get unnecessarily BIG in the middle. As this is a vocalist who can deliver equal skill quietly – many can’t- I find interpretation disconcerting and harmful to lyric intention.
Tommy Dorsey’s very cool “Alibi Baby” swings from lullaby to sass with flair. “True Blue Lou” is a lament. Hands behind her back, Anderson is in the song up to her eyebrows. Piano strolls and sighs. ‘Wonderful arrangement. “How’dga Like Ta Love Me?” (Jimmy Dorsey) emerges breezy, dancey. The vocalist delivers implicit wide eyed emulation. Her growl is impish. Part of the pleasure of this show is hearing rarely performed numbers.
Rodgers and Hart’s “Ten Cents a Dance” is a theatrical turn. This exhausted, hardened taxi dancer has both moments of sheer ingénue and parentheses of near hysteria.
Caveats: Anderson was recently Glenn Close’s understudy in Sunset Boulevard. Rationalizing this material is of the same period depicted in the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical, she ends this show with “Just One Look.” It lands like a wrong piece of the puzzle. The show is peppered with personal stories which would be more appealing if edited. No Director is listed.
Nancy Anderson occupies the stage with infectious enthusiasm.
Musicians are first rate.
Photos by Steve Friedman
Scott Siegel presents
Nancy Anderson: Ten Cents A Dance
Musical Director/Piano- Ross Patterson
J.J. Mcgeehan-Guitar/Banjo/Ukulele, Aaron Heck- Reeds, Don Falzone-Bass
254 West 54th Street
July 5, 2017