The Two of Clubs
Lynda Carter: It's a wonder she got the gig
If one's nightclub career were strictly about one's body and clothing, Lynda Carter would have Michael Feinstein's career, his club, his record contracts, and all of his good press. As fantastic as Carter looks, however, all it's gotten her lately is a short run that ends this weekend at Michael Feinstein's club at the Loews Regency Hotel. Without factoring in her Wonder Woman celebrity status and her astonishing figure (aided and abetted by a tight gown by a very sophisticated fashion designer), she would be, at best, a pleasant, but not so distinguished, pop country singer. In other words, if it really means something to you to be in the same room with Wonder Woman, go for it. Clearly, there are people who feel that way, but if you're looking for an evening of well-performed songs in a carefully crafted nightclub act, come back another time.
Mary Cleere Haran was at Feinstein's before Lynda Carter arrived, and her act, despite being too digressive and overlong, was far more along the lines of the kind of show one would expect at this high-end club. Sophisticated arrangements, a nuanced performance, and intelligent, entertaining patter were often in evidence.
Lynda Carter also had strong arrangements, but her top-notch musicians consistently overwhelmed her modest voice. Her patter was obvious and lacked charm, but at least her song selection was engaging ("Where Did Our Love Go?", "Crazy," "Blues in the Night," etc.) and, to the extent that she had the vocal chops to handle the challenges, she displayed a sweet sound with a vibrato just this side of being too wide.
We hasten to add, however, that we continue to appreciate Feinstein's willingness to book outside the box. The club takes chances and consistently brings in unexpected performers. Hey, we have to admit we were interested in seeing if Lynda Carter could pull this off. And we weren't the only ones; Ms. Carter also drew in a celebrity opening night crowd that included Alan Cumming and Cheyenne Jackson.
Lynda Carter continues to perform at Feinstein's at the Loews Regency through October 25. Visit feinsteinsattheregency.com for more information.
Jeff Harnar: He's the Top
It's often said that not everyone can sing Noel Coward's music successfully; it takes a certain touch. The same can be said about Cole Porter. More people sing Mr. Porter's music than Coward's but that doesn't mean they do it well. Happily, though, Jeff Harnar, in his all Cole Porter show down at the Metropolitan Room, knows just how to deliver these songs with character, flair, and oftentimes exquisite interpretation. He's got some help in this endeavor from his longtime music director, Alex Rybeck, plus his talented bass player Jarrod Egan.
Sticking largely to well-known songs in the canon, Harnar is a particular master of Porter's famous list songs like "Let's Do It," "Let's Not Talk About Love," "Swell Party" and "Can-Can." An easy crooner, he also gets under your skin with, of course, "I've Got You Under My Skin," "In the Still of the Night" and "You'd Be So Easy to Love"among others. Our only complaint is that Harner falls victim to the mega-medley, trying to cram in as many little pieces of Porter songs as possible. He also sometimes cuts two or more songs together, cabaret-style, to create a different effect. Personally, we think Mr. Porter's songs are plenty strong enough and don't need to be reassembled. That said, Harnar's show is still one of the best Cole Porter evenings you are likely to see this year.
Jeff Harnar Sings Cole Porter at the Metropolitan Room through October 26. Visit www.metropolitanroom.com for more information.
A bit of history via Yvonne Constant
Finally, we come to Yvonne Constant, a Tony Award-winning musical comedy star who performed on Broadway in such shows as La Plume de Ma Tante and No Strings. A star of movies and television, as well, Ms. Constant has performed in cabarets all over the world. Now, though she is a woman of a certain age, she is otherwise ageless. Her recent show at the Metropolitan Room, Paris on the Road to Piaf was a generally informative history of chanson and the people who sang it in Paris during the golden age of such music.
Talking about the likes of Yves Montand and Charles Aznavour, Ms. Constant oftentimes revealed information we didn't know. We're not going to tell you how Yves Montand got his name; let Ms. Constant have that honor. Besides, this show is not about her singing, which is fine on the rough and tumble songs like "Milord" and the wonderful comedy number she pulled off using several different voices, "Tout va Tres Bien, Madame La Marquise." The latter was a particularly special performance. And that's fitting, because Ms. Constant has been, throughout her long and busy career, a particularly special performer.