by Linda Amiel Burns
NJPAC celebrates legendary lyricist Sammy Cahn’s Centennial with Frank Sinatra, Jr. and Steve Tyrell and The NJ Symphony Orchestra on November 24th
The legendary lyricist Sammy Cahn was born on New York’s Lower East Side in 1913 and there have been many celebrations of his centennial this year by cabaret artists, a panel at The Paley Center, and The Friars Club. On Sunday, November 24, 2013 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Frank Sinatra, Jr and Steve Tyrell, along with The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, presented “Come Fly With Me: The Sammy Cahn Centennial Celebration” to a sold out and enthusiastic crowd. Terry Woodson served as conductor and musical director for Mr. Sinatra. Jon Allen and Quinn Johnson for Mr. Tyrell.
The afternoon concert opened with an overture of some of Sammy’s hits and then Frank came on stage appearing quite thin and sang, “Ring a Ding, Ding, “Walking Happy” and “Same Old Saturday Night.” He said that he knew the man being honored since he was a little boy, as Sammy Cahn wrote many of his father’s hits with collaborators, Jule Styne and Jimmy Van Heusen (also celebrating 100 years).
When Frank left the stage, the charming and energetic Steve Tyrell entered and performed the more well-known and swinging tunes such as “Come Fly With Me,” Teach Me Tonight” and “Saturday Night Is The Loneliest Night of the Week.” He made an album of Sammy Cahn songs and has just opened at The Cafe Carlyle this holiday season for his 10th yearly engagement.
The NJ Symphony Orchestra played lush and thrilling arrangements of these remarkable songs and both men were in great voice. However, the contrast between the performing energy of Frank and Steve was very noticeable. It was almost as if there was two different concerts going on. Frank would leave after singing a few songs i.e. “All My Tomorrows” and “Traveling” and then Steve would enter to sing “Ain’t That a Kick In The Head,” “It’s Magic” and “Until The Real Thing Comes Along.” They never interacted or were on the stage at the same time until the end of the show.
Sammy Cahn was honored with an unprecedented 28 Academy Award nominations and won 4 times. Three out of the four (except for “High Hopes”) were included in the program – “Three Coins In The Fountain” (1954), “All The Way” (1957), and “Call Me Irresponsible” (1963). Sammy was also known for writing great parody lyrics for special events and for friends. Frank came to life when he sang one that Sammy wrote on the spur of the moment for his father’s 50th Birthday that was sung by sister, Nancy, to the tune of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Tit Willow” as “My Daddy.”
At the end of the concert, both men finally were on the stage at the same time. I thought that this would be the time that they would do a medley together of some of the great songs that were not included in the show. However, this was not to be. As they began to sing the closing and only song together, “Tender Trap,” Frank sat down on a stool and Steve remained standing, really demonstrating the feeling of the two different styles and universes.
Aside from a few directorial issues, NJPAC deserves to be congratulated for a great afternoon of music. There are not a lot of concerts that celebrate the great composers of the Classic American Songbook where younger generations can learn these terrific songs. You could tell by the applause how appreciative the audience was to hear the songs that they grew up with and to know that these two talented men were keeping the flame alive.
*Photos and Video: Magda Katz
For the Schedule of future events:
Visit NJPAC.org or phone 1-888-GO-NJPAC