by Marilyn Lester
Those who know Sidney Myer adore him without reservation. Those who discover him are quick to join the ranks of his admirers. So what’s the key to the appeal of this man whose lovability quotient is off the scale? The answer lies in Myer’s return to the Laurie Beechman Theatre after a 36-year hiatus (In fact his opening song was the same one from that long ago show, the novelty “Bad, Bad Man”). In this long-overdue cabaret act, Myer let out all the stops, holding nothing back and delighting an audience whose members, as K.T. Sullivan acknowledged in her introduction, would like to take him home.
Kudos go to The Mabel Mercer Foundation for suggesting the show, a ‘live’ recording session which will result in a DVD release. Sullivan, head of the foundation, in addressing the Myer phenomenon, rightly identified much of the performer’s appeal as visual. The complete Myer package includes not only delivery of a song, but the extraordinary facial expressions, body language and bits of business that go along with any number. He is not only singular in style but, by turns, a man of many moods, with a talent for finding unique novelty songs and singing them with vaudevillian prowess – i.e. “Phi Beta Zappa,” “No Ring,” “Good Advice” and “It Ain’t Right.” Myer’s comic timing is perfection. He had the audience in stitches with bits of monologue befitting the most skilled of standup comedians and songs such as “Mary Cohen.” “It’s So Nice to Have a Man Around the House,” sung from a gay man’s point of view – once shocking but now not so much – was still hilarious in the droll hands of the master.
Then there’s Myer, virtuoso of the risqué without sounding prurient. Perhaps it’s the eyebrows with their permanent arch of vulnerability or the puppy dog eyes, but songs such as “I’m In Training” and “Pheromones” result in “nearly naughty,” completely funny and guileless. In fact, innocence is a key to the Myer mystique. With “G-Man” and the encore number, “Bare Necessities,” Myer’s capacity to reveal his own inner child is clear and touchingly appealing. Last but not least, Myer’s story-song delivery shoots arrows of authenticity with “straight” numbers, such as “Pocketful of Miracles,” Dance With Me Slow” and “Nothing Is Too Wonderful.” If the spirit of Mabel Mercer herself had appeared, Myer’s depth of feeling and truthfulness would have made her very happy indeed.
Sidney Myer was artfully directed by his long-time collaborator, Peter Schlosser. Music direction and piano playing was by Tracy Stark, with her usual skillful panache; with Skip Ward on double bass and Rex Benincasa on drums and percussion.
Sidney Myer, October 16 at 4 and 7 pm and October 17 at 7:00PM Added show: November 13
The Laurie Beechman Theatre, 407 West 42nd Street, 212-695-6909, www.westbankcafe.com/
Photos: Maryann Lopinto