NY Music Review By Joel Benjamin
Barbara Cook has opined that singers are healers. Certainly, Jason Graae fits that description with his 49-½ Shades of Graae, a vastly entertaining and, yes, healing show at the Birdland Jazz Club. He’s ingratiating without being cloying, somehow touching and amusing at the same time.
Entering with a pratfall, he went straight into a self-mocking “Don’t Look at Me” (Sondheim) seasoned with bits of such songs as “My Shining Hour” (Arlen/Mercer) and “You’re Gonna Hear From Me” (Andre & Dory Previn), building to a Mama Rose finale (“For Me! For Me!”) that was hilariously daft, as was his “Just a Gigolo” (Leonello Casucci/Irving Caesar) during which he tooted on an oboe!
All was not hijinks. He spoke lovingly about his mother and father and his Danish background. His fascination and emotional need to be a performer was expressed in “If I Had a Stage” (Tommy Newman) a bittersweet rumination on the regret and wonder of being a performer. “Clare” by Kooman & Dimond, a very funny song about an extremely persistent stalker with sadistic tendencies, was right up Mr. Graae’s alley, sung with an earnestness that made this monster quite sweet!
From Kander & Ebb’s The Rink he sang “Colored Lights” making it the story of his own amorous adventures out in L.A. His version captured the emotional bewilderment he felt until he met the love of his life which led to a deeply moving “I Do Not Know a Day I Did Not Love You” (Rodgers & Charnin).
His two encores, sung with a graceful lightness of feeling, were “The Colors of My Life” (from Barnum written by Cy Coleman & Carolyn Leigh) and “What Is Done Cannot be Undone” (from Promenade by Al Carmines & María Irene Fornés). This is an artist with a unique balance of qualities: caring, comedy and charisma.
John Boswell was the fine music director, totally in synch with Mr. Graae’s antics and emotions.
Jason Graae is repeating his show on Monday, May 12th as part of Jim Caruso’s wonderful Broadway at Birdland series, which includes his famous Cast Party. Don’t miss Jason Graae—or any of the shows in this series.
*Photos: Maryann Lopinto
Jason Graae: 49-½ Shades of Graae (May 5 & 12, 2014)
Broadway at Birdland
Birdland Jazz Club
315 West 44th St. (between 8th & 9th Aves.)
New York, NY
Tickets and Information: 212-581-3080 or www.birdlandjazz.com