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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Barbara Cook and Veronica Klaus
Individually, at the Rrazz Room

Also see Richard's review of Lucky Stiff

Barbara Cook's Triumphal Return to San Francisco

The greatest of all Broadway divas returned in triumph to a pack Rrazz Room in August. Hearing her silvery soprano voice and feeling the warm presence she provides the audience is like visiting with good friends. My "love affair" with Barbara Cook goes back to 1956 when I saw her for the first time in Candide. After that, I saw her in Plain and Fancy, The Gay Life, The Grass Harp, She Loves Me, The Music Man and The King and I. I've also seen her in concert in New York, Los Angeles and previously in San Francisco.

One night many years ago when I was working on a film in the city, she appeared for one night at the Boarding House nightclub. San Francisco got hit with a major wind and rain storm and only about 10 of us showed up for the show. The patrons were scattered about, and Barbara looked out and said, "all of you come down front and we will have a party." That night, she sang her heart out to the 10 patrons.

Barbara Cook is now 84 years young and, although her age has slowed her pace, her unique soprano voice and her wonderful sense of humor are still together. With Ted Rosenthal now serving as musical director and pianist, the legendary chartreuse presented an 80-minute show that included 14 songs and humorous chitchat about everything from growing up in Georgia to her early days in the business to the meaning of some of the song lyrics.

I think Alistair Macauley of The Financial Times said it best about Barbara Cook: "Ms. Cook is the only popular singer active today who should be taken seriously by lovers of classical music. Has any singer since Callas matched Cook's sense of musical architecture? I doubt it." What makes her so special isn't just how well her silver voice soprano has held up but the depth of feeling she brings to the material.

Her entrance was an easy informality, as one of the owners helped her up on the stage. She opened the show with Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler's "Let's Fall in Love" backed by a swing quartet of top musicians consisting of Ted Rosenthal at the piano, Kirk Smith on bass, Dunne Berk on drums, and Don Shelton on reeds.

The fabulous singer performed several familiar romantic love songs from the 1930s including "I Hadn't Anyone But You" and "The Nearness of You." She remarked to the audience that she always wanted to sing a Hoagy Carmichael song, so she sang another, "Georgia On My Mind." She was superb singing "House of the Rising Sun" and "Bye, Bye, Blackbird" without accompaniment. She floated into songs like "When Sunny Gets Blue" and "Lover Man," adding distinctively poignant touches to these songs. The songbird offered a spirited "I Got Rhythm" featuring strong solos by the fine trio, and she was terrific singing the bouncy "Makin' Whoopee."

Ms. Cook sang her personal mantra and was able to wring every ounce of emotion from the Artie Butler/ Phyllis Molinary anthem to survival, "Here's to Life," earning several minutes of sustained applause and huzzahs. As a finale, unmiked and with the lights lower, she sang a heartfelt "Imagine" by John Lennon. There never will be another Barbara Cook.

Barbara Cook played the The Rrazz Room, Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason Street, San Francisco from August 21 through August 26th.


Veronica Klaus Returns to the Rrazz Room with The Peggy Lee Song Book

There is only one word to describe cabaret crooner Veronica Klaus, and that word is "fabulous". She has glamour, style, poise, presence and voice, plus a respect for each song she sings. Her voice is deep and has a complex sound. She reminds me of the cabaret artists who would sing late at night in New York clubs like The Blue Angel. She returned to the Rrazz Room for a command encore performance of her show called Veronica Klaus Sings the Peggy Lee Songbook on August 24th and 25th.

Backed by the Tammy Hall Trio, Ms. Klaus did outstanding work on songs that Peggy Lee made famous, opening with "It's a Good Day" and segueing into "I Love Being Here With You." With Tammy Hall on piano, Daniel Fabricant on bass, and Kent Bryson on percussion, it was a night of wonderful cool jazz. For over 90 minutes Veronica Klaus not only sang 18 songs but gave anecdotes about the legendary Peggy Lee, and talked about her own life growing up in Gillespie, Illinois.

She went from a gentle waltz to hot Brazilian samba singing such songs as "Love," "I Lost My Sugar in Salt Lake City" (followed by a little dig at the Republican candidate for President) and "Moments Like This." She then performed a heartfelt arrangement of "Come Back to Me" from On A Clear Day ... and a spiced up rendition of "Big Spender" from Sweet Charity.

Veronica Klaus ended her session with the famous Peggy Lee song "Is That All There Is?" with some lyrics about her own life. The full house of fans demanded more, so she returned in a beautiful white gown and feathers to sing Peggy Lee's signature song "Fever," adding some very clever lyrics about Liberace and Gertrude Stein.

This was an evening of intriguing musical selections by San Francisco's prime cabaret diva. For the current lineup of the upcoming artist at the Rrazz Room, Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason Street, San Francisco go to www.therrazzroom.com.


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema



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