S’Wonderful- The Music of George Gershwin- And It Was!

 

Evening Two of the NY Cabaret Convention

Jeff Harnar, Andrea Marcovicci

 

by Alix Cohen 

 

In their 6th successful hosting of a New York Cabaret Convention evening, Jeff Harnar and Andrea Marcovicci delivered a show that came off like well designed fireworks- packed with talent, smoothly executed, and with more than a few surprises. We may have “lost” the composer 80 years ago, but his imagination and spirit shone bright last night.

Harnar and Marcovicci’s buoyant “Shall We Dance?”/ “Can’t Be Bothered Now” sparked with playfulness and mutual admiration. Later, Marcovicci preceded two numbers with a signature Dorothy Parker poem, The Red Dress. Look it up, it’s a gem. Lest one forget, this is an actress. Ballads emerge from depth of feeling, always with lyrical respect and grace. Ardor crosses footlights.

Harnar – was that really Jeff Harnar!? –enacted the rarely heard :”Treat Me Rough”: Treat me rough, muss my hair/Don’t you dare to handle me with care…draping himself across the upstage wall, howling, growling, tousling his own hair, daring front audience to respond to provocation, never dropping a stitch in the vocal. Flat out terrific. A highpoint.

(All James Fallowell-piano, Jered Egan-bass, Sherrie Maricle-drums)

In Act II, Harnar joined Shauna Hicks (and James Followell) for songs from Girl Crazy out of a Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney revue performed years ago. The friends were wonderful together, numbers great fun. Hicks then offered an utterly sympathetic “But Not for Me”, sighing into the lyrics with a fetching, wistful quality.

(James Fallowell-piano, Jered Egan-bass, Sherrie Maricle-frums)

Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano, together and separately, showcased taste, polish and brio. Comstock’s two offerings epitomized his makes-it-look-easy style and eloquent phrasing while Fasano’s “Love Walked In” was presented with an original arrangement (by the artist) featuring savored lag between music and vocal that served to embellish lyrical meaning as well as making a standard sound fresh.

(Eric Comstock-piano, Jered Egan-bass, Sherrie Maricle-drums)

Both Anna Bergman and Marissa Mulder performed numbers that seemed to have been written for them. Bergman’s “By Straus” boasted rich operatic training without stress or going over the top. (Alex Rybeck-piano. Jered Egan-bass, Sherrie Marcile-drums) Mulder channeled Marilyn Monroe for her enchanting interpretation of “Do It Again,” yet like Bergman didn’t take it too far, venturing neither into parody nor imitation. The breathy, kittenish rendition manifested this particular young vocalist having fun with it.

(Matt Baker-piano, Jered Egan-bass, Sherrie Maricle-drums)

Celia Berk, Karen Akers

 

Celia Berk and Karen Akers, “the two lowest voices in cabaret,” delivered another highpoint with a choreographed duet of “What Are We Here For?” replete with patter. Both first rate in their own right, neither vocalist is known for pairing up. The bubbly combination was urbane, polished, infectious fun. Following, Berk’s “Embraceable You” (lovely arrangement) arrived with low key finesse; Akers’ “How Long Has This Been Going On?” with palpably warm, almost giddy surprise.

(Alex Ryback-piano, Jered Egan-bass, Sherrie Maricle-drums; beautifully directed by Sara Lazarus)

From his current CD, Nicolas King crooned “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.” To have watched this artist perform from childhood is to value the musical maturity he’s reached all the more. The number was deft, sophisticated, deceptively nonchalant, expressive.

(Mike Renzi-piano, Jered Egan-bass, Sherrie Marticle-drums)

It’s pleasing to see Jennifer Sheehan back on a New York stage. Charming versions of “A Foggy Day” and “Love Walked In” floated through with the lightness of milkweed pods on a breeze. Sheehan radiates warmth and now, womanliness.

(Steve Ross-piano, Jered Egan-bass, Sherrie Maricle-drums)

Ferris & Milnes

We close with the rambunctious musical mastery of England’s (Dominic) Ferris and (Martin) Milnes who unfurl 30 Gershwin songs in 6 minutes. The seamless weaving together of melody and lyric is matched by astonishing versatility of style and vivacity that, harnessed, could light a small town. This is pizzazz. Someone book these men in New York!

 

Cast- October 17, 2017 (Photo: Maryann Lopinto)

 

Also featuring: Stearns Matthews’ deft “Strike Up the Band” which opened the evening with respectful oomph, Aaron Weinstein’s consummate jazz rendition of “Somebody Loves Me” preceded by an explanatory introduction with Joycean complexity and unique deadpan humor, T. Oliver Reid’s singular arrangement, Rhapsody on Catfish Row, displaying stunning falsetto (Julius Rodgriquez-piano), Steve Ross’s uber-elegant, dancey “Stairway to Paradise,” Deborah Silver’s affected “I’ve Got a Crush on You,” Gabrielle Stravelli’s incisive jazz, Jon Weber’s virtuoso piano solo, and Mark Nadler’s uber- affected “S’ Wonderful”/ “Rhapsody in Blue.” Nadler is creatively, musically and vocally an established talent, but occasionally chooses a less than successful performance zone.

 

The 28th New York Cabaret Convention presents

S’Wonderful- The Music of George Gershwin

Hosted by Jeff Harnar & Andrea Marcovicci

October 17, 2017

Rose Hall at Time Warner Center

Photos: Seth Cashman

 

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