|Steven Blier and Friends at Henry's Restaurant for NYFOS After Hours|
Joining a packed house, we joyfully shared in the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of Henry's Restaurant on the Upper West Side. The beloved Steven Blier has been presenting cabarets at that venue for the past five years, curating an always astonishing collection of songs performed with what he accurately calls a "torrent of talent", mainly chosen from among the singers he has coached. Like any torrent, this one swept us along.
For his 27th cabaret, there was no program. Mr. Blier, whose skills as a raconteur rival his pianistic artistry, narrated from the piano. The introduction, a charming ditty by Rodgers and Hart called "Sing For Your Supper" was performed by three women we had not heard before--soprano Meredith Lustig and mezzos Catherine Hancock and Carla Jablonski. We always expect tenor Miles Mykkanen to do the honors but the three lovely ladies put their own individual spin on the song with some captivating girl-group harmonies.
Happily, we got to hear Mr. Mykkanen later in the program as he put his particular spin on "I'm Not Getting Married Today" from Sondheim's Company. It is Mr. M.'s particular gift that he can sing both male and female parts with equivalent pizazz. He also performed "The Only Music That Makes Me Dance" from Jules Styne's Funny Girl.
Tenor Ben Bliss and baritone Theo Hoffman (two singers we always love to hear) were hilarious in "Everyone Eats When They Come to My House", a Cab Calloway song that was new to us. Its rhymes are too clever by half and exactly the sort of thing for which the English language was made. We wanted to hear it again right on the spot!
The amazing soprano Julia Bullock, who could keep us raptly involved if she sang the phone book, sang Irving Berlin's "Harlem On My Mind" with a sensibility of the period, evoking feelings of nostalgia for the places one leaves behind. Mr. Blier gave us some juicy jazz riffs on the piano.
Terrific tenor Theo Lebow sang a Scandinavian song about the sea. We hope we can be forgiven for not detecting whether it was Swedish, Norwegian or Danish; whatever it was, it was a strong masculine song and he sang it beautifully.
Mr. Bliss made "Maria" from Bernstein's West Side Story new again and spun out the final note with great finesse. Baritone Jonathan Estabrooks was delightful in "A Rhyme for Angela" from the Kurt Weill/Ira Gershwin show The Firebrand of Florence. If you never saw the show, it's worth looking up the plot which is about the escapades of Benvenuto Cellini. Berlioz' opera was not that titillating.
Not every song was modern. Ms. Lustig, Mr. Lebow and Mr. Estabrook joined forces for an a capella Renaissance song purportedly composed by Henry VIII! This being an evening of celebrating Henry, why not?
The program ended with Mr. Estabrook singing Bob Merrell's "Henry, Sweet Henry" with lyrics customized for the happy occasion. The eponymous Henry of 105th and Broadway was a most gracious and welcoming host for the evening's festivities. With good food, good drink, good music and such an outpouring of love, the evening was a total success.
(c) meche kroop