By Joel Benjamin
November 21, 2013
The sheer volume and range of the songs co-written by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen is almost incomprehensible. John McDaniel, a musical man par excellence, developed and directed Come Fly With Me – The Lyrics of Sammy Cahn & the Music of Jimmy Van Heusen giving the 54 Below audience a generous helping of the Cahn/Van Heusen repertoire. He gathered four lively, stylish singers plus music director Tedd Firth for an hour and half trip down memory lane, one that reached into all our minds and hearts.
Jennifer Sheehan, Linda Hart, Nicolas King and Jeff Harnar, all experienced performers, opened with the title song, in four-part harmony, setting the mood of the evening: slick, sophisticated and cool. Each had several solos displaying their particular talents. Jeff Harnar was the debonair crooner and acted as a sort of MC, telling about Cahn’s life and career. He sang “All the Way” with great affection and “Put It In a Box” with just the right wit. His “I Fall In Love Too Easily” was simply beautiful, capturing the warmth and sadness of Cahn’s wistful lyrics.
Linda Hart, the red hot momma of the group showed off more than a little Mae West in her sexy “Teach Me Tonight.” “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head,” included a piano duet with Mr. Firth and “Until the Real Thing Comes Along” was sophisticated and torchy.
Ms. Sheehan, lovely and ardent, sang “When Will It Happen to Me” as a slow ballad, effectively closing her eyes as she expressed the emotions of the lyrics. She joined with Mr. King, a really strong pop tenor, in a medley that included “Call Me Irresponsible,” “Time After Time,” “Three Coins in the Fountain,” “High Hopes” and the one song no one associates with Cahn, “Be My Love.” Mr. King also sang “I Thought About You,” a song written with the prolific Johnny Mercer, giving it an upbeat samba treatment and a bit of scat singing, his voice soaring into pop heaven.
Best of all, the cast took a much-belated glance at the musical Skyscraper (1965) which had a modestly successful run and starred Julie Harris, Peter Marshall and Charles Nelson Reilly. Jeff Harnar, who spoke eloquently about the show, sang “Everybody Has the Right to Be Wrong” and Ms. Sheehan sang “I’ll Only Miss Him When I Think of Him,” illustrating the richness of this neglected musical. (Is anyone at Encores! interested?)
The brilliant pianism of Tedd Firth and the great singing of each artist made it clear that Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen’s contribution to the American Songbook will always be valued for generations to come.
Come Fly With Me
The Lyrics of Sammy Cahn & the Music of Jimmy Van Heusen
254 West 54th St. (between Broadway & 8th Ave.)
New York, NY
Tickets and Information on Upcoming Shows: 866-468-7619 or www.54below.com