By Steve Nardoni
So what if one could be in an audience and get to hear songs by Noel Coward, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and others, all with a saloon singer, a comedienne, a sultry vamp, an accomplished actress, a political commentator, a cabaret star, a Parisian chanteuse, your mom, and a historian? And, even better, what if all the characters were played by the same intoxicating person?
It happened on Monday last at Don’t Tell Mama by the indefatigable Cynthia Crane in a return engagement. This superstar has honed her forty years of performing into a talent and personality that is beyond belief. Cynthia’s resume covers decades of award-winning acting, singing and writing as well as co-founding The Impossible Ragtime Theater.
She’s been around. The show’s theme is, yes, about change, and Cynthia’s legacy is that she’s seen a lot of change over the years. This diminutive powerhouse delivers a scenario of songs (with wry and charming patter) that describe the nonplussed-ness that we all share facing a changing world.
In between songs she charms us with quotes relevant to her theme, like Yogi Berra’s “The future isn’t what it used to be.” Yogi himself interpreted this as “I just meant that times are different. Not necessarily better or worse. Just different.”
The updated “Anything Goes” lyrics by Joe Keenan produced guffaws galore! Like
“When gays can wed and jaws
When Barney and Ben go shopping
for baby clothes,
The rest of the timely lyrics are hysterical and worth looking up. And Cynthia’s delivery was so much fun, with her growly voice and expressive face. Throughout the evening she sang with a sweet voice, nicely warbling lowers tones all with the confidence of a woman who knows what she is doing, and who knows that she does it well. Her musical director John Bowen accompanied Cynthia effortlessly to provide the exact music required to the nuances of her songs.
She guides us through World War II with a couple of chauvinistic songs (“How Will We Get Her Back In the Kitchen?” (Zeb Carver/Jack Rollin) then onto her sloshy saloon song “I Keep Going Back to Joe’s” where she charmingly croons the boozy lines so well-
“I keep goin’ back to Joe’s,
To that table in the corner,
Sippin’ wine and staring at the door.
Our old waiter knows we’re through,
Still he sets a place for you
Everything the way it was before.”
And she reminds us of the past with records called 78’s and 45’s and that even CD’s are relics of the past. And she addresses the political lack of truth with Billy Joel’s “Honesty” and made us sing the chorus to Ervin Drake’s “Card-Carrying, Bleeding Heart Liberal.” We didn’t melt. She sang a heart-rendering version of “What Is My Name?” by Marshall Barer, to offset the knowledge of a changing world against the trials of a failing memory. Her plaintive cries were chilling.
The show featuring this top-notch entertainer finishes on a high note with “I Don’t Think I’ll End It All Today” (Yip Harburg and Harold Arlen), describing Cynthia’s intention not to off herself.
With that she asked that we call our grandmas.
Presented at Don’t Tell Mama, 343 West 46 Street on March 4, 2019.
Also on March 14, March 23 and March 29th