Double Take: Sally Mayes And Jeff Harnar At The Same Time

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by Marilyn Lester


 

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Take two talented, seasoned performers and set them loose to develop a cabaret act and the result is a swell evening of prime, solidly-anchored entertainment. Sally Mayes and Jeff Harnar, working together for the first time, have created a sweet show full of charm, shtick, and creativity, not to mention a fresh song list and well-honed singing chops – their distinctive, individual voices work quite well as one. Additionally, the show has been cannily crafted to make the most of what each can bring to the act. Several of the songs are original compositions, such as the opening number, eponymously entitled “Double Take” with music by Alex Rybeck and Mayes, and lyrics by Mayes and Harnar. Mayes sang an eloquent and delightful Dolly- Partonesque “Somebody Sent Me an Angel,” for which she wrote both music and lyrics. Alex Rybeck’s (with lyrics by Seth Friedman) “Why Did You Have to Split” – a love song about multiple personalities – was hilariously sung by Harnar, a consummate and undisputed master of comic timing.

Often when a male and female performer pair up the conceit is the “love-hate” relationship. Although the banter approached the predictable from time to time, Harnar and Mayes kept the show from being hackneyed through chemistry and creative song choices, such as the comedic, satiric and thoroughly enjoyable “I Don’t Think I’ll End It All Today.” In addition to duets, each performer brought his/her own singular talents to the stage. Mayes’ operatic soprano did justice to the witty “Metropolitan Scat,” and switching gears, for the plaintive “Too Long at the Fair.” Harnar executed “There Is a Time (Le Temps)” with the air of a man who understands well the import of the lyrics, and excelled on “Come Back to Me,” a song that allows him to make the most of his acting ability and perfect timing, energetically backed up with bongo beats.

Creative duets included the pairing of two Paul Simon tunes: “Feelin’Groovy” with “At the Zoo,” pleasingly arranged by Lanny Meyers; the usually upbeat “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” was languorously paired with the doleful “Saturday Night Is the Loneliest Night (In the Week).” The latter was arranged by Rybeck, Becki Menzie and Mayes, and provided an unexpected but engaging counterpoint. Closing out the evening, both singers dueted on two more songs about time (a subtle thread of the show, harkening back to its title): a traditional and genial “Just in Time” and an imploring and sincere “At the Same Time.” Ending on a high note, “That’s All,” counter- intuitively arranged by Patrick Brady, was delivered as a perky, very upbeat testament to love. Except where noted, most of the arrangements of the set were by Music Director and pianist Alex Rybeck, who dependably brings something fresh to songs he’s working on. Rybeck’s talent at the keys is also rock-solid. He has a light and lyrical touch that seems to levitate each music note into the atmosphere. Rounding out the rhythm section were two seasoned, sturdy musicians: Bob Renino on the upright bass and Dan Gross on drums.

Double Take: Sally Mayes and Jeff Harnar at the Same Time, September 7,14,21, 28 at 7 pm and October 20 at 2 pm

The Laurie Beechman Theatre at The West Bank Café, 407 West 42nd Street, 212-695-6909, www.westbankcafe.com/laurie-beechman- theatre

 

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