Having enjoyed Paulo Szot for his acting and singing in the role of Emile de Beque in “South Pacific,” I was eager to see how he fared in the supper club setting of the Café Carlyle, where he has returned for a February 1-12, 2011, engagement. The answer is that if you want to hear a handsome, powerful singer with a rich baritone voice charming and captivating an audience, this is the opportunity. Szot is a master at working his music and lyrics into a display of strength that an opera singer can bring to a song, and the intimate room almost vibrates as he glories in some of the more robust hits from Broadway shows.
Being from Brazil he also pays attention to works from his home country, as evidenced by his strong interpretations of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Vou Te Contar” and “Desafinado,” and the Jobim-Memdonça “Samba de Uma Nota Só.” He projects affectionately intense feeling on such terrain.
But there is no denying that the high spots occur when he rises to the occasion and shows off his voice to maximum effect when he launches vigorously into such numbers as “Some Enchanted Evening,” “If I Loved You” and “This Nearly was Mine,” his signature song from “South Pacific,” as well as “If Ever I Would Leave You.” He can also show tenderness singing “Gigi,” “A Nightingale Sang in Berkely Square” and “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.”
Szot extends his repertoire to sing works by Cole Porter, doing reasonably well with “So in Love,” “Easy to Love” and “From This Moment On.” But his interpretation of “Love for Sale” is all wrong, as he inexplicably turns that sad song into an up-tempo, fun number that communicates the opposite of its lyrics.
The excitement in hearing Szot lies in the chance to appreciate a performer with a gifted voice that explains the successful opera career he has had. Here, he translates that talent into a popular format that fits the intimate environment while also providing the chance to show off his looks and charm. He gets excellent backing from the Bob Albanese Trio, consisting of Albanese at piano, Joe Fitzgerald on bass and David Meade on drums.
On opening night Szot had a surprise treat in store. Laura Osnes, who for a time played opposite him in “South Pacific,” came on stage to join him in a cozy rendition of “People Will Say We’re in Love.” At the Café Carlyle, Carlyle Hotel, 35 East 76th Street. Phone: 212-744-1600.