Cabaret

Christine Andreas: Bemused
54 Below

by Michael Portantiere

Also see Relevant Octogenarians (at 92nd Street Y)


Christine Andreas
A generation ago, Christine Andreas emerged as a great Broadway musical theater star in milestone revivals of My Fair Lady, Oklahoma! and On Your Toes. Changes in the industry, along with some family issues, kept her away from Broadway for some time, but she reemerged in The Scarlet Pimpernel and was most recently seen as Jacqueline in the 2010 La Cage aux Folles. I must mention as well her superb performance as Margaret Johnson in the national tour of The Light in the Piazza, which I was lucky enough to see twice.

Andreas has also been a sparkling presence on the cabaret scene over the past several years, and she's now making her debut at the beautifully appointed, excitingly booked, superbly well managed, newish venue 54 Below. With Don Rebic as her musical director/pianist, and Dick Sarpola on bass, her new act is a terrific showcase for Andreas' magnificent voice and her great talent as an interpreter of lyrics. No kidding, this lady sings as well if not better than ever; her voice remains perfectly equalized throughout its wide range, with no obvious register break, and is made all the more lovely by the feathery vibrato at the very core of the tone. Plus, she looks so absolutely fabulous in middle age that one imagines she might have been a movie star if her career had played out differently.

Her 54 Below show is titled Bemused—an odd choice, given the mostly negative connotations of that word and despite Andreas' attempt to redefine it. The title also seems inappropriate to the content of the show, which consists of tributes to musical artists of many different stripes. But with singing of this caliber, such objections are little more than quibbles.

Andreas's wonderfully malleable vocal instrument and stylistic virtuosity serve her well in the hommages presented here. She begins by offering up "Get Happy" as a Judy Garland/Harold Arlen tribute, then salutes Arlen and Ethel Waters with "Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe." As the well-researched program continues, Andreas, Rebic and Sarpola tip their hats to Astrud Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim ("The Girl from Ipanema," "Desafinado"), Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Van Heusen (a medley), Jimmy Webb ("Didn't We," "The Moon's a Harsh Mistress"), and Hal David/Burt Bacharach ("Alfie," "What the World Needs Now").

To my ears, Andreas sings French like a native, and her "Français parfait" is demonstrated here in stirring renditions of Edith Piaf's "Milord" and "La Vie en Rose." Another late-in-the-show highlight is her performance of Rodgers and Hart's "Bewitched," which was introduced in the original Broadway production of Pal Joey by Vivienne Segal in the role of Vera Simpson—a role that Andreas made her own in a 2002 production of the show at the Prince Music Theater in Philadelphia.

Christine Andreas: Bemused continues at 54 Below January 29, February 1 and 2 at 8:30pm, and January 30 and 31 at 7pm. For more information, visit www.54Below.com.