Barbara and Scott
The Two of Clubs

Aznavour's Final New York City Bow

Many of Charles Aznavour's most successful songs are about an older man looking back, with a passionate nostalgia, upon his youth. His most famous song on that theme is "Yesterday When I Was Young." But there are others, like "La Boheme," a song about a successful painter returning to his beginnings in Montmartre. There is a song, as well, about a man later in life meeting his first love, a woman who followed her father's orders to drop him for a man with more money and better prospects. These and other songs were written by Aznavour when he was a much younger man. Eighty-two years old now, this international star is making his farewell concert tour. He performed on Monday and Tuesday nights at a packed Radio City Music Hall. Knowing that this is the last time we would see Charles Aznavour perform on a New York City stage, a lyric like "There are so many songs in me that won't be sung/I feel the bitter taste of tears upon my tongue" is no longer nostalgic; it has an undeniable immediacy. For his legion of fans, the taste of tears was upon our tongues for we know that we shall not see the likes of his greatness again.

Aznavour struggled early in his career, but after he became an Edith Piaf protégé he began to receive attention. His career never seriously faltered ever again. He made movies (he was the piano player in Truffaut's classic 1962 New Wave film Shoot the Piano Player) but his fame will forever rest on his reputation as a songwriter/singer. Those who saw him last Monday or Tuesday (or both, as we did), would continue to be struck by his iconoclastic approach to a concert. Despite this being a farewell performance, he sang one song he wrote as recently as four years ago after the brutal political murder of Wall Street journalist Daniel Pearl. Though billed as a "Best of Aznavour" concert, he is (rightly) of the belief that his best work isn't necessarily buried in his ancient past.

Both evenings were a love fest. The first night was more rambunctious as people in the audience kept yelling out "We love you Charles!" The second night was slightly different, perhaps because Liza Minnelli walked down the center aisle to applause before the show began. She sat on the aisle of the third row, center. People gawked. People wished they had her seat. Liza was there, of course, because she performed with Aznavour for years.

There were minor differences in the two concerts, the second one on Tuesday understandably being the more polished. Both evenings started (with his entrance) and ended (with his exit) to thunderous applause and standing ovations. In between, he performed some of his most beloved songs, including "She," "It Will Be My Time," "The Old Fashioned Way," "What Makes a Man a Man," "I and My Chair," and many others. His voice belied his years, as did his graceful, youthful movements. He finale number was "Take Me Along." And surely we shall, remembering him always with a passionate nostalgia. Merci, Charles.

To Stritch or Not to Stritch, that is the Financial Question

Elaine Stritch
Elaine Stritch
Photo: Denise Winters
Well, you've got a tough decision to make. You've read Elaine Stritch's reviews and you know that her new show at the Café Carlyle is yet another hit for this ageless icon. Not that you needed reviews to help make up your mind; you already knew you wanted to see her. It's the steep price that's giving you pause: $125 per person music charge, plus you must have (and pay for) dinner. Did we say steep? For some, this is the Mt. Everest of cabaret shows. What to do?

Start rationalizing. First, let's deal with the dinner. You've got to eat anyway, right? While you might not want to eat at Café Carlyle prices, why not just think of it as a dinner splurge, separate from your cost of seeing Elaine. Get their early so you don't have to rush through your food and enjoy the ambience and the audience; Elaine gets a lot of famous folks at her shows so feel free to gawk. You paid for the right.

As for the $125 music charge ... if you think of it in terms of theater prices, it's not so out of line. If you went to see Elaine on Broadway – and admit it, if she were doing another one woman Broadway show you would be there in a heartbeat – she might be charging anywhere from $75 to $100 per ticket. Probably the latter. Now, consider the intimate nature of a cabaret club and how much closer to her you will be than if you bought a theater ticket and the extra $25 won't seem so outlandish.

You're Broke: Now What?

After you see Elaine Stritch, you will look at that vacuum in your bank account and wonder how you're going to pay for live entertainment for the rest of the month. Here are some ideas that are cheap and fun:

Jim Caruso's Cast Party at Birdland on Monday nights starting at 10 PM. Where else can you get three hours of non-stop entertainment that just might include Michael Feinstein getting up with Maude Maggart to sing a duet (that happened last Monday night)? A mere $10 cover and two drink minimum at the bar. During NYMF, you will certainly see some of the casts from the Festival coming through to entice you to their shows with a sampling from their scores. Regardless of who else might there, Caruso himself is a first-class entertainer and a brilliant host.

Mostly Sondheim, hosted by Kate Pazakis at The Duplex every Friday night starting at 11 pm till 4 am. No cover/no minimum. This is a downtown late night open mike night that gets a lot of young performers on their way up. Pazakis is a powerhouse belter with personality to spare. Created by Phil Bond and originally hosted by Brandon Cutrell, this was the first contemporary open mike night to try to capitalize on the success of Jim Caruso's Cast Party.

The After Party hosted by Brandon Cutrell every Friday night starting at 10:30 pm at the Laurie Beechman Theatre. Phil Bond recently became the booking manager for the Laurie Beechman and happily ripped himself off, establishing a late night soiree that competes with Mostly Sondheim. Like the show downtown, this is a younger, somewhat more rough-hewn version of Cast Party. No cover/no minimum. Because this is New York, the talent level is high, but you won't see as many famous folks either on the stage or in the audience. Cutrell is a vibrant personality; very sassy with a wonderful voice.

Throughout the week, piano bars are thriving at Rose's Turn, The Duplex, Don't Tell Mama, Danny's, and elsewhere. These are all places where you can get hours and hours of wonderful entertainment for the cost of a couple of beers and a few bucks in the piano player's tip bowl. Before too long, your bank account will be ready again for the next impossibly expensive star at one of the big rooms.

-- Barbara and Scott Siegel

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