By William Wolf

CABARET CONVENTION OPENS WITH STYLE  Send This Review to a Friend

The 30th annual New York Cabaret Convention presented by the Mabel Mercer Foundation started with opening night panache (October 28), featuring dazzling performances of songs geared to “The Sunny Side of the Street” theme of celebrating Dorothy Fields and great women songwriters. The show was written and hosted by Deborah Grace Winer, who was introduced by KT Sullivan, Mercer Foundation Artistic Director, smartly dressed as usual and wearing one of her signature hats.

Winer turned out to be one of the best MCs I have seen. She was very well-prepared with her script, spoke with admirable clarity, and introduced the artists with detail and enthusiasm. She made a letter-perfect and attractive host, who kept the evening going in grand style. During her comments she made repeated references to iconic Broadway lyricist Betty Comden, who was a good friend.

The convention, started 30 years ago by the late Donald Smith, runs through Thursday (October 31) with a different theme each night. It takes place in Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center. The performers mostly had a number in the first act and then returned with one in the second act.

Particularly memorable was the appearance of Christine Andreas, who seemed to be surprised when presented with the annual Donald Smith Award in honor of the founder. Her first selection was a brilliant and moving rendition of “The Summer Knows” (lyrics by Marilyn and Alan Bergman), and her later selection closing the program was an exuberant “I’m Flying” from “Peter Pan” (Carolyn Leigh, Comden).

Linda Purl opened with a jazzy take on “I Feel a Song Coming On” (lyrics by Fields). Purl puts her own spin on numbers, as with her second song, an unusual rendition of “Just the Way You Look Tonight”(Fields).

Welcome humor was introduced by James Naughton with “Westport,” cleverly detailing sexual goings-on in that Connecticut community. For his second number he did a spellbinding “Witchcraft” (Leigh).

And so it went. Songs chosen were mainly ones reflecting the contributions by various women. Stacy Sullivan, one of the best of current cabaret singers, scored with “I Love Being Here With You,” and opened the second act with a rousing “Big Spender.” Darius de Haas delivered the back to back combination of “Sunny Side of the Street” and “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and returned in the second act with “Some Other Time.”

Tom Wopat, with his Broadway experience, was solid with his two numbers, “Look Around” and “I Won’t Dance.” Debby Boone clicked with “I’m Waiting Just for You” and “Where Do You Start.” La Tanya Hall, extra smooth, made a major impression with “The Best is Yet to Come” and “A Case of You.”

Other memorable contributions came from Karrin Allyson’s “Bye, Bye Country Boy” and “Some of That Sunshine;” Margo Seibert’s rousing “A Natural Woman” and the Latin beat “The Boy from Ipanema;” and Nicolas King’s “Make Someone Happy “ and “You Must Remember Spring.” At Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Broadway and 60th Street. Reviewed October 30, 2019.

ANITA GILLETTE BACK AT BIRDLAND FOR 'CHAPTER 3'  Send This Review to a Friend

There is special magnetism to Anita Gillette when she takes the stage, as she did to an enthusiastic welcoming crowd last night, Oct. 7, with another performance of her show “Chapter 3,” scheduled for Oct. 14 as part of Jim Caruso’s Monday Night Cast Party. Gillette is not just an excellent singer and actress based on her extensive stage experience on Broadway and elsewhere during her long career. She has a delightful personality and flashes enthusiasm for what she does, and audiences take warmly to her in appreciation for who she is as well as for how she performs. She also has a treasure trove of amusing autobiographical stories to tell as introductions to some of her numbers.

The personality she can pour into a song was evident last night in the very first selections, “I Can’t Be Bothered” and “Happy Go Lucky,” which quickly established rapport with her audience. Then she swung into “Italian Street Song” and “Cuanto La Gusta,” forecasting the range one could expect to follow.

Gillette can be sexy, as with “Teach Me Tonight,” very tender, as with “It Never Was You,” soft and easy going in her interpretation of “Shall We Dance,” longingly with “I’ll Never Go There Anymore,” and especially showing off her voice with a medley from “Showboat.”

Throughout she delivered funny comments and anecdotes, referring for example, to meeting her former doctor husband at an autopsy. She gave a sexy report on teaching Richard Gere how to tango. She shared stories about different roles she has played, including Pocahontas in London.

In joyfully reporting that she has a new great granddaughter, she commented on aging by quoting humorist Will Rogers as asserting, “The only way to slow advancing age is if it had to pass through Congress.” As entertaining as Gillette’s stories are, she could tighten them a bit.

The guts of her show is delivering her interpretations of a wide range of songs, including “High Plains Jamboree,” “That Terrific Rainbow,” “You Mustn’t Kick It Around,” “You Have to Want to Touch Him,”"Everybody Says Don’t,” “Everyone Needs Someone,“ “I Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man,” “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries,” and more.

There is amusing interplay of duets with her pianist, Paul Greenwood, who on occasion joins in the singing, as does bass player Ritt Henn, which adds to the show’s easygoing feeling. For her encore, Gillette sang Cole Porter’s “You’re the Top” and after doing his lyrics inserted some very funny made-up ones by Barry Kleinbort reflecting contemporary times. The biggest laugh came when she sauntered toward someone in the audience and, continuing the “you’re the” string of lyrics, sang “You’re the f—k in a play by Mamet.”

Gillette is taking this show to London, but meanwhile you can catch it 7 p.m. on Oct. 14 at Birdland, 315 West 44th Street, Phone: 212-581-3080. Reviewed October 8, 2019.

ISAAC SUTTON CHARMS THE CROWD AGAIN  Send This Review to a Friend

One thing you can be certain of when Israeli singer Isaac Sutton comes to town and performs at Feinsteins/54 Below, as he did last night, 0ctober 5, is that you will be guaranteed a good time. Not only does he impress with his bass baritone voice and his exuberance, but he is fond of introducing and performing with women singers who have excellent voices and add spice to the show.

Sutton, with a white tux jacket over a black shirt, is effusive in welcoming his audience, and he loves to aim songs at adoring women fans. He sings in English and Hebrew and showers the crowd with his larger-than-life personality that goes along with his talent. He is skillful at establishing intimacy with the crowd –-he introduced his parents who flew in from Israel to attend--and he dominates the stage with his musical skill, dispensing lots of humor along the way.

The women singers he presented last night were Amanda Jane Cooper (Glinda in“Wicked"), and Ali Ewoldt (Christine Daae in “The Phantom of the Opera”). Both Cooper and Ewoldt are terrific, each in her own way. Sutton’s approach is to let his guests solo and also duet with them in what comes across as fun-filled collaboration.

Cooper, blond and full of zest, sang “For Good” from “Wicked,” and she and Sutton riffed on “Hello, Dolly!” and playfully sang “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better” from “Annie Get Your Gun,” which in the “I can sing higher than you” bit allowed Cooper to soar with her soprano voice. They sang “The Rain in Spain,” with Sutton delivering some of it in Hebrew. There was also amusement in the routine of teaching Cooper to also sing a bit in Hebrew.

Ali Ewoldt has a great voice, as she thrillingly demonstrated with “All I Ask of You” from “The Phantom of the Opera.” She and Sutton teamed on “Tonight” and “Somewhere” from “West Side Story” and “Climb Every Mountain” from “The Sound of Music.” Sutton treated Cooper and Ewoldt with generosity, lavishing praise on them and giving the impression that he was excited to share the stage with them.

On his own, Sutton sang a variety of numbers, such as “Come Fly With Me” and “Sway.” Confessing that he longs to perform in “Chicago,” he sang that show’s “All I Care About.” He did a medley from “Fiddler on the Roof,” and especially demonstrating his vocal prowess, “Man of La Mancha” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade.”

There was excellent accompaniment by musical director Dan Pardo on piano, Greg Orlando on double bass and Matt Covey on drums. Not only did Sutton introduce them but he did something unusually generous, inviting them at the end of the show to stand beside him and take bows together. At Feinstein’s/54 Below, 254 West 54th Street. Reviewed October 6, 2019.

ADRIENNE HAAN BRINGS THE WORLD ON STAGE IN TEN LANGUAGES  Send This Review to a Friend

Cabaret star Adrienne Haan believes in building international harmony through song and she dynamically illustrated her point in her show at the Triad last night (July 31). While presidential candidates were debating in Detroit about international relations, Haan was on stage energetically singing in ten languages that reflect her world view and travels as a performer. Her generous hour and one half program was presented with her customary high spirits and integration with her audience that once again demonstrated that she is in my opinion the top modern all-around cabaret entertainer above and beyond ability as a songstress.

This time she made her entrance wearing a sexy outfit consisting of a black top and black shorts covered with sparkling silvery mesh from neck to toe. It never takes long for Haan to personally connect with the crowd, which was already clapping along as she opened with “Willkommen” and “Cabaret” from “Cabaret” (Kander and Ebb), followed by her rousing interpretation of “New York, York New York” (also Kander and Ebb). Haan cements her relationship by sometimes moving teasingly among attendees and singing directly to them.

Accomplished in acting out lyrics with style and movement, including a wiggle here and there, Haan might also succeed at standup comedy if she chose. Her recounting of an episode when she sang in China was completely hilarious. She described getting up in the morning and recoiling at finding chicken feet on the hotel breakfast menu, which sent her scurrying to a nearby Starbucks. Unfortunately, that day she was hit with a bad case of diarrhea. She described going to a drug store where nobody spoke English, and acted out her motions attempting to show a rush out of her derriere to get the personnel to recognize her predicament and describe the right medication.

After having everyone laughing uproariously, Haan proceeded to sing a Chinese 19th century folk song in Mandarin, which she had studied for the occasion. The number was titled “Mo li hua” (“Yasmin Flower Song”).

Haan, whose origins stem from Germany and Luxembourg, also achieved hilarity by singing a renowned “Mary Poppins” number in German. The title mouthful is “Superkalifragilistischexpialigorisch.” You have to hear it to believe it.

Haan provided another example of her ability to sing in German with a number she plucked from a 1931 German film called, “The Man Who Is Looking for His Murderer.” The song’s title is “Wenn Ich Mir Was Wünschen Dürfte” (Friedrich Hollaender).

She does especially well in French, giving her own brand of intensity to both the popular “La vie en rose” (Luis Guglielmi) and “Milord” (George Moustaki), the second inducing more clapping from the audience.

“Bokserboym” (“Carob Tree” by Chava Alberstein) was sung in Yiddish, and Haan also sang a number in Hebrew, “Rikmah Ensoshit Achat” (“One Human Tissue” by Moti Hamer), dedicated to Holocaust Remembrance Day. Haan’s Spanish contribution was her take on the popular “Besame Mucho” (Consuelo Valázquez).

Describing her trip to Sweden, she launched into a number in Swedish, “Gabriellas Sång,” from the Swedish movie “As It Is in Heaven.” Haan even studied some Turkish to be able to sing “Yigidim Aslanim,” written by Zülfü Livaneli in tribute to Mustaf Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey and its first president. Not to ignore Italian, Haan wistfully sang “Con te partirò” (“Time to Say Goodby”).

Of course, she also showed her way with lively interpretations of Americna theater classics—the lilting “So in Love” (Cole Porter) from “Kiss Me Kate” and “You Can Always Count on Me” (David Zippel and Cy Coleman) from “City of Angels” For her encore, grounded solidly in the tradition of Broadway, she served up a lively medley from shows by Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein, Cole Porter and George Gershwin.

After expending so much vibrancy and energy in giving last night’s audience her solid and super-friendly show, Haan announced—one might have guessed--that she was leaving Sunday on another international tour before returning to New York to do her Christmas show. Bon voyage. At the Triad Theater, 158 West 72nd Street. Phone: 212-279-4200.

NICOLE HENRY'S LOVE FEST AT DIZZY'S  Send This Review to a Friend

Superb singer Nicole Henry named her program at Dizzy’s at Jazz at Lincoln Center “Where Love Is.” There was plenty about love in her songs, and there was also well-earned audience love for Henry herself, given her appealing way with music and lyrics in her chosen repertoire for her two-night gig (May 29 and 30).

What’s more, there was the attraction of her terrific backup band. David Rosenthal contributed elegant solos on guitar. Richie Goods on bass, Shedrick Mitchell on piano and Kendrick Scott on drums also had their entertaining moments in the spotlight. The excellent blend between Henry and her musicians added impact to numbers chosen.

Henry has a smooth-as-silk musical style that first establishes intimacy with her audience, and then she edges ahead as she escalates with her vocal power. She looks great (this time clad in a clinging dress attractively patterned in red and black) and she moves scintillatingly when listening to a musician’s solo, as well as using body language to emphasize particular lyrics.

The fact that her chosen songs were all about love offered the opportunity to pour out her heart and soul, sometimes with easygoing tenderness and at other moments with impassioned vigor. Her versatile voice accommodates whatever mood she is attempting to project.

Her opener was “Almost Like Being in Love” (music by Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner), which she charged up dramatically. Her “Wild is the Wind” (Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington) had intricate emotional appeal. In her rendition of “Don’t Take Your Love From Me” (Henry Nemo), Henry projected tender pleading. There was a thoughtful mood in her interpretation of “What’ll I Do?” by Irving Berlin, which she introduced with an account of Berlin falling in love. Henry did quite a few informational introductions which explained reasons for her choices. She also gave a fresh, moving rendition of “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. Henry turned intriguingly pensive in singing “All My Tomorrows” by Jimmy van Heusen and Sammy Cahn.

Another strong point is Henry’s ability to have fun with a song. “Joe” enabled her to look at a guy who may be acceptable as an experience but is basically a jerk not meant for a serious relationship. Another in a similar vein was “Until It’s Time for You to Go” (Buffy Saint-Marie) about relations with a man until a woman decides to get him out of her life.

When Henry sang “That’s All” (Genesis), she infused it with total commitment, and a jazzy take at full strength to convey giving everything to love. In “Save Your Love for Me” (Johnny and Sue Edward) she reached passionate intensity. In a complete change of tone, Henry did as her encore “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” a hymn, which has words by Thomas Crisholm and music provided much later by William M. Runyan. There was a gospel-like aura to this triumphant conclusion.

I had recently enjoyed Henry in a stint as part of the latest “Broadway by the Year” concert at the Town Hall (See Search and Theater) and welcomed the opportunity to catch her in a show of her own. The experience at Dizzy’s underscored why Henry is such a superior cabaret artist. In one of her introductions she made a point of saying how inspired she has been by the late Nancy Wilson. Yes, there is a similarity in style, and Henry is coming out with a CD that celebrates Wilson. At Dizzy’s at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Broadway at 60th Street. Phone: 22-258-9595. Reviewed May 31, 2019.

ADRIENNE HAAN'S NEW 'BERLIN,MON AMOUR' HIT SHOW  Send This Review to a Friend

Superb international chanteuse Adrienne Haan can always surprise me. Last night (May 22), when she made her appearance on stage at the Triad, she wore a black top hat and a wine-colored tux with tails, striking a dramatic pose that signaled her new show, “Berlin, Mon Amour” would be fun. Indeed it is, sometimes in provocatively unexpected ways, and it emerges as the most unusual cabaret show in New York at the moment.

The theme is celebrating the centennial of the democratic Weimar Republic, which flourished in the 1920s and early 1930s. When Hitler took over Germany many of the songs were banned because of their rebellious content of feminism, sexual liberation and trans-gender portrayal, or because of being written by Jewish composers. In the Weimar period the cabaret scene flourished in Berlin with an anything-goes aura, and great songs emerged from composers of the day, many of the numbers penetrating and sassy in satirizing life and prejudices of the time.

The big surprise in Haan’s latest clever and entertaining Weimar tribute, performed as if in Berlin’s Wintergarten Theatre, is the addition of a special guest--beautiful, dark-haired French cabaret artist Magali Dahan. The two are sensational in their duets, and voilá, at one point they illustrate what might have occurred in the free-spirited Weimar cabaret world when Haan and Dahan sing as lesbian lovers, sexily tongue-kissing and also with a hand gently passing over a private area. It’s surprising to behold, and the two performers make the most of the love-charged moments.

The show is packed with superb numbers, some sung in German, some in English and some in both. Haan opens with the feminist “Chuck Out the Men” (“Raus Mit Den Männern”), written by Friedrich Hollaender.

There is the sexy “I Am a Vamp” (“Ich Bin Ein Vamp”), a number by Mischa Spoliansky and Marcellus Schiffer. Another song with sex appeal is “Naughty Lola,” (“Fesche Lola”), by Hollaender, who also composed the dreamy “Falling in Love Again,” with the mouthful German title, “Ich Bin Von Kopf Bis FuB Auf Liebe Eigestellt.” That number gives Haan the opportunity to convincingly slide into her Marlene Dietrich mode, a perfect blend with the period being portrayed.

Other songs with a bite include taking apart the sexual divide in “Masculin/Feminin” (Maskulinum/Femininum”), by Spoliansky, and also “Abortion Is Illegal,” by two of the era’s greats, Hanns Eisler and Bertolt Brecht. There are many more appealing renditions, and, of course, no program like this could not feature “Lili Marleen.”

Haan indulges amusingly in her trademark sauntering among audience members, and, of course, picking out a few men on whom to shower affection. Dahan also does the same—I was one of her targets on opening night. The gambit extends the fun in a tasteful but not intrusive way.

It is a smart move on Haan’s part to introduce Dahan to New York audiences. Dahan sings excitingly and flashes sexy stage movement that blends well with Haan’s mischievous acting style. Haan in her musical number not only honors the Weimar era but makes you accept the illusion that she has become part of it.

“Berlin, Mon Amour” features the invaluable, skillful work at the piano by Haan’s long-time musical director, Richard Danley, and the show has been directed by Barry Kleinbort and produced by Peter Martin and Joseph Barry.

The result is a solid treat, and happily, you will still have the chance to see it. “Berlin, Mon Amour” is being repeated on May 29 and June 5. At the Triad, 158 West 72nd Street. Phone: 212-279-4200. Reviewed May 23, 2019.

ADRIENNE HAAN RETURNS WITH CAPTIVATING KURT WEILL SALUTE  Send This Review to a Friend

Having so enjoyed international chanteuse Adrienne Haan singing a program dedicated to the works of Kurt Weill in 2017 (See Search and Cabaret for review), I was eager to attend her reprise of the show in a new engagement, this time last night at The Triad (March 27, 2019). It turned out to be another supreme evening with Haan again demonstrating why she should be acclaimed as the first lady of cabaret today.

Dazzling looking in a black silk tuxedo, Haan immediately took command with her interpretation of “My Ship” from the Broadway show “Lady in the Dark.” The production projected musical weight, because Haan had strong accompaniment by a six-piece group, with her long-time musical director Richard Danley at the piano along with the Novembergruppe Quintet, including band leader Dan Levinson on clarinet, alto saxophone; Jonathan David Russell, violin; Vinny Raniolo, guitar and banjo; Jared Engel, bass and tuba, and Mike Campenni, drums. The combination provides extra oomph to back up Haan’s singing, in contrast to some singers accompanied by just a piano and bass. This is serious stuff.

One thing about Haan is that she projects so much enthusiasm into the songs that flow from her, and also that she is such a skillful actress in delivering lyrics that you get the impression she is having a grand time and wants to be sure you share it with her. She makes you feel that she probably has about a thousand more songs ready to unfurl, which, if you have followed her, is reflected in her variety of program themes. All this, of course, takes meticulous preparation.

Haan dispenses lots of information about Weill, whose career was cut short when he died in 1950 at the age of 50. She covers his German period (Haan is also from Germany), his fleeing from the Nazi regime, and his re-establishing himself in the United States and catching the spirit of musical theater here.

Haan spans the territory. One may have heard “Pirate Jenny” from “The Threepenny Opera” many times, but Haan brings new color and terror to that number. In contrast, she can be very funny singing “The Saga of Jenny” from the Broadway show “Lady In the Dark,” a number about the gal named Jenny, who couldn’t make up her mind and “in twenty-seven languages she couldn’t say no.”

There is, of course, “Mack the Knife,” or “Die Moritat von Mackie Messer” as it is called in Germany, another from “The Threepenny Opera.” Her accent was very funny when she introduced Weill’s “Alabama Song,” mimicking what the state sounded like to her—Alabaaaama—when she visited there.

There were so many treats in her program, including “Surabaya Johnny” from “Happy End,” “Speak Low” from “One Touch of Venus,” and the poignant “I’m a Stranger Here Myself,” also from “One Touch of Venus,” among many other selections, whether reflecting Weill’s collaboration with Bertolt Brecht or his other musical ventures.

Haan likes to at some point stroll among audience members. She’ll address a lyric to someone in particular, or muss up gentleman’s hair. It’s part of her intimate approach and doesn’t come across as corny, as can be the case with some who try this.

The show was directed by Barry Kleinbort. Haan is now an entertainer in residence at The Triad. Her next show is May 22, 7 p.m and called “Berlin, Mon Amour,” created to celebrate the 100th centennial of the Weimar Republic. At The Triad, 158 West 72nd Street. Phone: 212-362-2590. Reviewed March 28, 2019.

CONSTANT HONORS AZNAVOUR  Send This Review to a Friend

Renowned singer, lyricist, actor and French icon Charles Aznavour died in France in October, 2018 at the age of 94, but after the initial obituaries, he was not properly honored in the New York cabaret world. Chanteuse Yvonne Constant has stepped into the breach at Don’t Tell Mama with her affectionate tribute titled “Aznavour as is. ” Two performances have already occurred on January 17th and 25th, and there is another that one can still catch at 7 p.m. on January 31st.

Joining in the program dedicated to the Aznavour is Russ Kassoff, Constant’s pianist and musical director, with whom she has had a working relationship over many years. There is a logical connection in the show, as Constant knew and admired Aznavour, who was championed by her as he worked to achieve his illustrious career. The tone of the performance is primarily intimate and chatty, with information dispensed along with the music.

In the course of remarks Constant makes, she recalls how Johnny Carson, who repeatedly booked Constant on his show in the years after she performed on Broadway in “La Plume de Ma Tante,” didn’t know who Aznavour was when he visited the U.S. and asked Constant about him. She responded with a briefing and recommendation.

As for Kassoff, he had occasion to work with Aznavour, as reflected in a projected photograph. He was a pianist and musical director for Aznavour on various occasions, the last in 1999 at the opening of the Hotel Paris Las Vegas when he conducted and played for Aznavour, with accompaniment by Michel Legrand and a full orchestra. Kassoff gets a spot in the program to talk about Aznavour, emphasized with playing different numbers on different nights.

Constant begins her tribute with an array of images reflecting Aznavour’s extraordinary life and career. He has been credited with writing more than 1200 songs, and recording more than 1000. Her program highlights numbers in some way associated with him, both in French and English. She does this in an informal manner, and on the night I attended (January. 25) let the capacity audience in on the cabaret notables attending, introducing KT Sullivan, Mark Nadler, Steve Ross and Richard Holbrook.

Constant selects and sings numerous songs for which Aznavour wrote music or lyrics or both. Her opening number is “Emmenez Moi” (music and lyrics by Aznavour). She also sings “You’ve Let Yourself Go” (Music by Aznavour, English lyrics by Fred Ebb). She puts special feeling into “Que c’est triste Venise” (music by Aznavour), lyrics by Francoise Durin).

Constant is best when she sings with force, as with “La Boheme” (music by Aznavour, lyrics by Jacques Plante), and with her encore number, “Yesterday When I Was Young” (music and French lyrics by Aznavour, English lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer).

Although the emphasis is on Aznavour’s work, it was deemed fitting for Constant to sing a few non-Aznavour numbers to further capture the spirit of French hits known to international audiences. In that spirit, Constant sings “Non, je ne regrette rien” and “Milord,” both associated with Edith Piaf. At Don’t Tell Mama, 343 West 46th Street. Phone: 212-575-0788. Reviewed January 27, 2019.

ADRIENNE HAAN SINGS BERLIN  Send This Review to a Friend

International cabaret artist Adrienne Haan has demonstrated her skill with a repertoire that has included songs of the Weimar Republic in Germany and popular French classics. In her latest show at the Triad in New York ( December 7 and 10) she goes very American in her salute to the music and lyrics of Irving Berlin in her program called “White Christmas at the Triad” and flashes her skill in interpreting the hits of America’s most prolific composer.

She has a strong accomplice—Richard Danley, her longtime associate as musical director and pianist. They work ever-so smoothly together, whether Danley is superbly complementing her on the keyboard or on occasion joining in the vocals.

As usual, Haan, a favorite entertainer of mine, lights up the room--it was packed on the opening night when I attended-- with her effervescent personality and ability to connect with her audience, whether by strolling among the spectators or connecting with her crystal clear delivery of lyrics.

Haan ranges over an array of hits by Berlin, interspersed with comments from a script written by Laurence Pierron that recalls his history as the Jewish immigrant from Russia who came to write such iconic songs as “White Christmas” and “God Bless America,” both of which Haan sings with panache.

She opens with a zesty “There’s No Business Like Show Business” from the 1946 Broadway musical “Annie Get Your Gun” and proceeds to highlight different sides to Berlin’s accomplishments. For example, he wrote a number stressing America’s welcoming of immigrants, “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor” from the 1949 musical “Miss Liberty.” (Nostalgia in the age of Trump?)

Haan puts zing into Berlin’s 1977 “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.” She reflects the contributions Berlin made to Hollywood musicals and Broadway with a medley of “Blue Skies,” “They Say It’s Wonderful,” “Cheek to Cheek” and “I’ve Got the Sun in the Morning.”

In 1926 on the wedding day of Berlin’s marriage to Ellin McKay, he wanted to present her with a musical gift. He gave her “Always,” a beautiful love song that Haan sings emotionally as if she were the giver.

Haan also dipped into songs Berlin wrote with a nod to the military—“This is the Army Mr. Jones” and “Oh How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning.” Very funny is the odd “I Paid My Income Tax Today.”

Haan’s excavation into the treasure trove provided by Berlin has been produced by Peter Martin. At the Triad, 158 West 72nd Street. Reviewed December 9, 2018.

ADRIENNE HAAN AND BIG BAND GIVE ROUSING SHOW TO ENTHUSIASTIC CROWD AT JOE'S PUB  Send This Review to a Friend

I have watched Adrienne Haan perform in various venues, but last night (October 17, 2018) she illuminated Joe’s Pub with a spectacular, larger-than-life performance that wowed an enthusiastic crowd. It was an extra dynamic show, with Haan backed by the excellent big band, Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, consisting of 11 musicians for the occasion, and Haan’s long-time colleague, pianist Richard Danley, as musical director. Haan is an entertainer who can thrive in tandem with a huge sound, and she proved that the combination is potent.

The theme of her show—Haan is fond of choosing themes—was “Voluptuous Weimer—A Tribute to Berlin’s Golden Age.” The singer grew up in Germany, so she is well-versed in the country’s musical history. She sang in a mix of German and English, providing translation when needed.

Haan was a knockout in a clinging and sparkling red mini with fringe, and uninhibited on stage, she moves seductively as she shakes and shimmies to the rhythms. She has the flair of an actress, with an array of expressions that accent her lively eyes, and of course, there is the quality voice that she can apply to a wide range of songs.

Her program highlighted numbers that were popular in the days of the Weimer Republic that came on the heels of the end of World War I. Cynicism was there in “It’s All a Swindle.” Saucy sensuality was projected in “Sex Appeal.” The popular film “The Blue Angel” yielded “They Call Me Naughty Lola,” and “Falling in Love Again,” and Haan made the most of them. She also turned on the sensuality with appropriate body language as she sang “ I am a Vamp.”

Haan sang what she said was popular among women of the period--“Johnny.” She also noted that American songs were catching attention, and as examples she sang Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” and “Cheek to Cheek,” plus Cole Porter’s “Night and Day,” demonstrating that she could be impressive with American songbook numbers as well as those rooted in Germany.

According to Haan, although under the Nazis American popular music was looked upon as decadent, young people gathered secretly to dance to the songs that they admired. Thus she launched into the example of “Sing Sing Sing” as adapted by Benny Goodman. The Nighthawks tore loose on that one, making Joe’s Pub jump as Haan sang, band members soloed, and Haan enthusiastically introduced musicians who stood out. She gives the impression of rooting for her musicians and makes a point of giving them enthusiastic introductions.

Other numbers in Haan’s repertoire included “Bei Mir Bistu Schein” in a tribute to the Andrews Sisters. The program included the romantic “These Foolish Things” and the lively “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” For her encore, she noted the importance of getting along together in the world today, and sang what she called an anthem of the European Union, “Lili Marleen.”

Haan holds a unique position as a classic chanteuse with modern trimmings. She comes on like a whirlwind, never lets up and has an ability to connect with an audience. When she strolls through the crowd singling out men or women to cozy up to, she is engaging rather than crass.

The Joe’s Pub show proved that she has the power to sing with a big band behind her and still stand out. Maybe it’s the band that needs the power to stand out along with her singing. At Joe’s Pub, 425 Lafayette Street. Reviewed October 18, 2018.

  

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