Opera star turned Tony Award winner turns a sophisticate New York audience into mush.
By Joel Benjamin
At turns manly and boyish, opera star turned Tony winner, Paulo Szot entranced a sold-out house at Feinstein’s/54 Below with a program of theater songs and numbers from his native Brazil. Backed by a super band led by cabaret legend, Billy Stritch, Szot displayed his suavity from the get-go, sauntering through the house, microphone in hand, cooing “Pure Imagination” (Bricusse/Newley), flirting all along the way. His “Only With You” (Yeston) also included some tongue-in-cheek, outrageous, but well-aimed, flirtation as he leaned over some lucky front-row patrons.
He then proceeded to hit all the major baritone signature tunes, making them his own, displaying a new found vulnerability. From a lusciously smooth “Old Devil Moon” (Lane/Harburg) to a human scaled “The Impossible Dream” (Leigh/Darion/Wasserman) and on to his lushly sung finale, “If Ever I Would Leave You” (Loewe/Lerner), the emotional elements of each song vied evenly with the musical demands. He reached his zenith with a transcendent “This Nearly Was Mine” (Rodgers/Hammerstein) that was truly operatic—in the best sense of that word—in scope.
The heavier emotions were balanced beautifully with a musing “Isn’t It a Pity?” (Gershwins), a dapper “How About You” (Lane/Freed) and a pensive “Something Good” (Rodgers/Hammerstein), while a visit to his native Brazil in three well-chosen songs was joyfully and openly sexy.
He also was hilarious in a sequence devoted to singers with “foreign accents,” which centered on “Stars,” the evil Javert’s anthem from Les Misérables (Schönberg/Boublil/Kretzmer) sung in Spanish, French, German and even Polish! (Szot has Polish roots and spent his formative years away from Brazil getting excellent training, first in dance and then in voice.)
This was by far Szot’s best cabaret act: well balanced, gorgeously sung and confidently easy-going.
The band was completed by the brilliant Tom Hubbard on bass and David Meade on drums.
Paulo Szot (April 7-9, 2016)
Feinstein’s/54 Below 254 West 54th Street (between Broadway and Eighth Avenue) New York, NY
For reservations, call 646-476-3551 or visit www.Feinstein’s/54Below.com
Running time: one hour 15 minutes