Cabaret Review By Myra Chanin
My husband Alvin, that long suffering saint, left 54Below with a broken heart. Alvin had fallen in love with Amanda McBroom more-than-I’d-like-to-admit years ago when she performed at the posh Barrymore Room atop Philadelphia’s Bellevue Stratford Hotel, during its glory days — before them Legionnaires almost transformed it into an EconoLodge permanently. Alvin remembers her slim and gorgeous in a diaphanous pastel gown, in total command of the stage and the audience, lusciously leaning against a baby grand piano, or perched on top of it, singing amusing and moving songs written for her by her – entrancing, familiarly folky, semi-waltzy, soft Southwestern melodies enhanced by precise, heartfelt but non-sentimental lyrics. Need I tell you what happened next? Alvin was soon the owners of every CD she’d ever recorded and played them constantly. His favorite McBroom song was and always will be Errol Flynn. It’s about her father, David Bruce, who appears on a poster with Errol Flynn. You may all consider yourself blessed that you never had to listen to Alvin bellow that song in the shower.
So why was Alvin so heartbroken last week. Alvin learned his dream woman Amanda had been married to the same person for almost as long as Alvin has worshipped her from afar. P.S. Having stayed married for 40 years to the same person may have set a new record for Southern California show business connubial bliss! If they were selected to be honored by the Hollywood Marriage Walk of Fame, what part of their anatomy would they have to immerse in the concrete square along with their signatures?
I’m a cynic and hardly an expert on love, but Amanda and George are a joy to be with. Everyone in the room basked in the glow of their mutual respect and pride in each other and their utterly delightful camaraderie.
They arrived on stage to a standing ovation even before either of them had sung a single note! Amanda was relaxed, happy, beautiful and chic in a black and red pantsuit. I can’t believe she’s 68! She looks young enough to be my great-granddaughter. Does anyone know what unctions and ointments she swathes on her skin? I want to order a tank car filled with it. .
Their opening song, Dual Soliloquy from South Pacific, is sort of the verse to Some Enchanted Evening, when Emile de Becque and Nellie Forbush express their qualms about their insuitability. George had just about gotten through this quatrain, “Younger men than I, Officers and doctors, Probably pursue her, She could have her p….” when Amanda stared at him with open mouthed amazement, and wailed what every wife has wailed God knows how many times to her beloved, “What are you wearing?” And George, as beloveds always do, defended his outfit. Friends told him to wear blue jeans, an open shirt and a blue sports coat. Then he looked up and said, “This aint gonna be all Gershwin.”
The room rang with laughter! Everybody there had been there before. Amanda and George may be stars but down and dirty they’re just like us! Sondheim’s The Little Things You Do Together was a perfect follow up.
I was so pleased the 15-song program had more McBroom songs than Brel numbers. He may have taught her how to write, but her songs speak to me more than his do. She sang several of my favorites: Ship in a Bottle — about feeling like a copy of herself; Round — wanting to be as rich as camembert with a derriere that’s squeezable and plush; Dance – about how marriage changes from perpetual romance to settling down in comfortable despair; Yarnell Hill co-written with Michele Brourman, her fine musical director, from the point of view of a firefighter’s widow – and naturally, The Rose. Her voice reminds me of a buttery sparkling champagne. Every word she sings passes from her heart to her brain to her lips. Sometimes the lyrics are so true that they make the hair on my arms stand up.
George also did himself proud. He’s a balladeer in the best sense; he can really tell a story in a song as in Highway Patrolman, a Bruce Springstein song about a blue collar worker and his no good brother. He made me unhappily aware of the brevity of life in September Song and his voice and his manner are perfect for the Jacques Brel numbers. Then came Save the Last Dance, and Some Enchanted Evening and finally Gershwin – Our Love is Here to Stay to which they danced together showing they were still in a state of perpetual romance.
Alvin really liked George. He’s a stalwart manly guy, who tells it like it is, like Alvin does.
Amanda McBroom and George Ball will be performing Some Enchanted Evening (an evening of Love Songs for Grown Ups) again on Tuesday October 14 at 7:30 pm at 54Below. Cash in your Christmas Club and see it. Listen to me! You won’t be sorry! You don’t want to miss this particular evening of delight. (646) 476-3551