Irving Berlin’s “The Best Thing For You” is the title of the new show performed in the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel (November 1-12, 2011) by Sandy Stewart and Bill Charlap. The team really does know what’s best, which is another way of saying that Stewart and her pianist son are providing a program that guarantees maximum pleasure for those who like music and lyrics rendered with the utmost feeling and clarity. With Stewart and Charlap that’s nothing new.
The scene becomes one of utter intimacy and directness—no frills, no mannerisms, no chatter. Stewart’s vocals are pearls of delicate nuance as she delivers assorted selections from the American songbook. I have used the word purity to describe her performances before, and that is just as true now. The same can be said for Charlap’s accompaniment, and his soloing is a major part of the show. As usual, he offers us examples of his jazz inventiveness.
The overall effect for an audience is to leave the every-day world and enter into a dreamy environment with the co-stars casting a spell. Stewart’s selections conjure romance in a variety of expressions from some of America’s great songwriters. Her pacing is leisurely, giving her the opportunity to put meaning into each phrase, word and syllable.
Her opening with “Where or When” sets the standard, met with such other selections as “I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance With You,” “The Best Thing For You,” “Something to Remember You By,” “I Thought About You,” “Solitude” and “All The Things You Are.”
Stewart picks up the beat with “Change Partners,” “Isn’t It a Lovely Day to be Caught in the Rain” and “Singin’ in the Rain.” The program could use injection of a few more such lively numbers. But Stewart seems to especially enjoy the more pensively romantic choices.
As for Charlap, on the night I attended he provided his piano magic soloing with “Easy To Love” and “Dance Only With Me,” both of which are oh-so-easy to listen to. I should also point out that one of Stewart’s selections, “I Was Telling Him About You,” was co-written by her late husband, composer Moose Charlap, and Don George.
If you somehow don’t know the work of Stewart and Charlap, this is a good occasion for an introduction. If you do, it’s an opportunity to enjoy old friends again. At the Oak Room, The Algonquin Hotel, 50 West 44th Street. Reservations: 212-419-9331 or firstname.lastname@example.org.