Pianist/singer Steve Ross performs the songs of legendary lyricist Alan Jay Lerner to a packed house at Birdland with guest artist, soprano Shana Farr for one night only.
by Linda Amiel Burns
Steve Ross has been called the “crown prince of NY cabaret” for good reason. He is a renowned historian and interpreter of songs of the American Songbook, and master of the repertoire of Cole Porter and Noel Coward (even wearing a velvet jacket given to him by the Noel Coward Society). However, he is at home with any song that has an intelligent lyric and brilliant melody, and has continued to dazzle generations of fans. On January 22, 2018 he performed a sold out show at Birdland, I Remember Him Well – The Songs of Alan Jay Lerner celebrating the centenary of this literate and legendary lyricist.
Alan Jay Lerner was born in 1918 and died in 1986 from lung cancer at the age of 67. In collaboration with Frederick Loewe he created some of the world’s most popular and enduring works of musical theater for both the stage and film, winning three Tony Awards and three Academy Awards, among other honors. These shows include Paint Your Wagon, Brigadoon, Camelot, Gigi and the eternal treasure that is My Fair Lady. With Burton Lane, he wrote Carmelina, On A Clear Day and Royal Wedding. Many of his songs have very romantic themes, but his personal life was troubled as he was married eight times.
Steve opened with “You’re All The World To Me” from Royal Wedding (Lane) performed in the film by Fred Astaire. A nice segment was songs about “flora and fauna” that included “I Never Met a Rose” from The Little Prince (Loewe), “I Talk To The Trees” from Paint Your Wagon and “Hurry, It’s Lovely Up Here” (On A Clear Day – Lane). The show Lerner wrote with Nancy Kenny was not produced, My Man Godfrey had some lesser known gems such as “Try Love,” “Dancing My Blues Away,” and a bitter discourse on marriage, “I’ve Been Married.”
No Lerner tribute would be complete without the brilliant songs from Gigi, and Steve sang the duet “I Remember It Well” (originally performed by Maurice Chevalier and Hermine Gingold) by himself accapella doing both parts. Then he added the clever “I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore” about being free from all the problems and passions of young love. The beautiful Shana Farr was his guest artist adding her lovely soprano voice and playing Eliza Doolittle with an exciting “Show Me” from My Fair Lady and “I Could Have Danced All Night.” Steve’s version of “On The Street Where You Live” was very tender and well acted.
The highlights of a show filled with great material was one of my favorite songs from Carmelina “One More Walk Around The Garden” asking for more time to enjoy the simple things in life. Steve’s rendition of “What Did I Have?” from On a Clear Day was particularly moving. He closed with the classic from Brigadoon “Almost Like Being In Love,”and for the encore the audience joined in a sing-a- long of the popular “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly.”
The genius of Steve Ross is that aside from being a brilliant pianist and musician, he has respect for the lyric and the composer. What seems so simple is actually quite complex as he makes each song a short story putting his own inimitable style to it. As usual, the audience was captivated and didn’t want the show to end. Many cabaret and Broadway notables came to see him including, KT Sullivan, Joan Copeland, Karen Akers, Walter Willison, Glenda Jackson and Amy Asch who has just completed a remarkable book coming out in March from Oxford Press, “The Complete Lyrics of Alan Jay Lerner.”
Photos: Kevin Alvey
Where to see Steve Ross next, visit his Website