By Myra Chanin
No cabaret artiste on the planet is quite like Sidney Myer – the droll, witty, wistfully androgynous, totally endearing, past, present and future cabaret virtuoso who’s attracted unparalleled admiration and respect for his unique delivery of quirky ditties and poignant ballads. Composer Jerry Herman must have had Sidney Myer in mind when he wrote “I Am What I Am,” because Sidney is indeed his “own special creation” – a work of art which he’s been hewing and shaping for his entire lifetime. Even the New York Times review of the 2015 Cabaret Convention recognized how special Sidney Myer was, declaring that the evening’s high point was a deadpan rendition of a comic obscurity by Sidney Myer, a beloved latter-day vaudevillian.
For too many years, despite constant urging from admirers, Sidney’s limited his brilliance to cameo performances at clubs, benefits, and conventions, usually in New York. What convinced our modest boy-o to venture out of the performing closet in 2016 and put his profuse talents on display in his first one-man show in 25 years? KT Sullivan, the cabaret diva cum artistic director of The Mabel Mercer Foundation, one of the most generous people in the entertainment world, offered him a Mercer Foundation sponsored DVD recording session so everyone who loves Sidney Myer as much as she does can take his performance home. Sidney’s first four 75-minute one-man shows in 2016 and the two that followed in 2017 were completely sold out. “Live with Sidney Myer” also won Mac and Broadway World awards.
This January the Mabel Mercer Foundation booked Sidney as the opening production of their Lynn University cabaret series in Boca Raton. The possibility that Sidney would be just too hip for the boondocks was rendered permanently irrelevant this week in Boca Raton by a sold-out-from-almost-the-minute-they-were-offered, lucky ticket-holding sophisticated adults who packed Lynn’s Amarnick-Goldstein Concert Hall with whoops of delight, bursts of laughter and a double standing ovation. They “really got” what Sidney does and who he is!
Lynn University had requested a 90-minute performance. Not to worry. The minutes flew as Sidney spoke and sang his heart out for two hours plus.
Sidney Myer’s a cross between Noel Coward and Fannie Brice. Sidney’s blend of innocence, sophistication and style, sentiment and kitsch have you roaring with laughter one moment and wiping away tears seconds later. His selection of material, his commentary, his asides, his facial expressions, his astonishing body language, his perfect delivery, his risqué naivety are astonishing and unexpected. The joy he gives and gets from an appreciative audience are beyond belief.
His song selection is a triumph of diversity, blending over twenty-something disparate songs into an almost flawless 120 minutes. His opening number, “A Bad, Bad, Man,” which, to my shock, was composed by stodgy, straight Irving Berlin for Annie Get Your Gun sharpshooter Frank Butler, included comments that paid homage to Roy Rogers who in addition to establishing fast food joints was a Wild West cowboy star married to Dale Evans, known as the Queen of the West, a title many others have vied for. He also praised Roy’s noble steed, Trigger, and revealed that Roy’s last wish was that Trigger be stuffed and mounted, which Sidney confessed was usually his first request.
“No Ring on her Finger,” the adventures of a maiden who loved unwisely far too often was followed by a historical ballad, “Bagel Maker to the Czar” (by Steven Lutvak) and the 1930 Boswell Sisters hit “I’m in Training for You,” in which Sidney’s naïve delivery made promiscuity a cornerstone of eternal love. My favorite opus is Chuck Prentiss masterpiece, “Mary Kohn,” in which the singer doesn’t understand why every Latino he meets calls him by someone else’s name which in Latin countries is spelled as a single word — maricón.
Sidney supplies great tenderness to “Dance with Me Slow,” from a new musical presented at Don’t Tell Mama, “I See the World in Your Eyes,” and “The Second Time Around.” He provides a sweetly, gay perspective to “It’s So Nice to Have A Man Around the House.”
His encore is the always popular “Good Advice,” by Allen Sherman, in which Sidney tells a quartet of inventors including Mr. Otis, who invented a room that goes from side to side, to make it go up and down, and advises the Wright Brothers, who believed the wings on the washing machine they invented were for hanging clothes out to dry, to take it out to Kitty Hawk and see if the damn thing’ll fly.
His companions in perfection were his long-time collaborator, Peter Schlosser, his longtime Music Director Tracy Stark with Tom Hubbard on bass. They all did Mabel Mercer and KT Sullivan proud.
Photos: Evan Musgrave