Cabaret Review by Stephen Hanks
When I heard that Rosemary Loar's new cabaret show was called When Harry Met The Duke, it immediately made me think about the film When Harry Met Sally, which then made me think about the famous scene in Katz's deli, which then made me ask myself the question, "Have reviewers ever faked it?" (because that's the way my warped and fevered mind works). No, not orgasms, silly. Have they ever faked positive reviews? As in giving a show or a performer a great review even when they really didn't care for either. Given what everyone in the New York cabaret community seems to agree is the incestuous nature of the biz (such as it is), I'm sure it's happened. I just hope an orgasm was involved--at least for someone. (Photo above by John Quilty)
While I'm probably as guilty as the next reviewer of occasionally going a bit too over the top for a good show or performance, I can honestly say I haven't "faked it" (at least not yet), and I don't have to start now when describing the opening night of Rosemary Loar's new show, her third straight excellent effort over the past 18 months (she scored in July 2011 with Rosemary Returns to Her Roots, a collection of her own compositions, and last February with her Sting, Stang, Stung tribute to Sting). With her tribute show to the music of Harold Arlen ("Somewhere Over the Rainbow," et al.) and Duke Ellington ("Take the A Train," et al.), When Harry Met The Duke is Loar's creative foray back into the caressing arms of the Great American Songbook (GAS). If you consider that the contemporary cabaret scene in New York is 30 years on (since the opening of Don't Tell Mama in 1982 and the start of the Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs [MAC] in 1983), there have likely been thousands of cabaret shows with GAS themes and the interesting new ideas may be down to a precious few. Loar, who has been performing cabaret shows during that same time frame, has managed to come up with yet another variation, and her erudite and accessibly sophisticated new show featuring wonderful jazz, pop, and Broadway songs from the 1930s-'50s goes down like a delicious vodka martini topped with a skewer of blue cheese-stuffed olives.
With her able Musical Director and arranger Frank Ponzio at the keyboard and a bouquet of flowers on the piano lid, Loar's lean and lithe body looked lovely in a plum-colored, sleeveless, floor-length gown with a plunging neckline; the same dress that is so striking in her show promotions where she is pictured hovering over the New York City skyline as if she is the focus of an urbane version of the poster for the late '50s film, Attack of the 50-Foot Woman.
One of New York cabaret's strongest jazz singers, the 2012 winner of the MAC Hanson Award for "Excellence in Cabaret" (photo right), opened with a jazzy medley of Ellington's (and Bob Russell's) "Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me" with Arlen's (and Ted Koehler's) "Let's Fall in Love." She then went into a sultry scat on The Duke's "Caravan" (lyrics by Irving Mills), and followed that with a deeply personal, emotional, and nostalgic rendition of Ellington and Mills' "Prelude to a Kiss." Throughout the show, Loar's patter seemed charmingly stream of consciousness, but here she romantically reminisced about a long ago walk in the park with her dance teacher Robert Atwood (photo next page), and about how the sparks were flying before he finally decided to plant one on her. With Atwood (now her husband and creative collaborator) in the audience, Loar fought against her voice cracking at the end of the lyric: "Oh, how my love song gently cries/For the tenderness within your eyes/My love is a prelude that never dies/A prelude to a kiss." (Please click on Page 2 below to continue.)