Paulo Szot really doesn’t need a mike. His booming amplified baritone electrifies the Café Carlyle, where he has returned for his third engagement (January 10 through January 28, 2012). Piling on the charm and the intense interpretations in what is billed simply as “An Evening with Paulo Szot,” the Brazilian-born opera singer is increasingly at home applying his considerable talent to the American Songbook. On this occasion, he is working with pianist, arranger and music director Billy Stritch, with whom there is an easy rapport. The other musicians are David Finck on bass and Dave Ratajczak on drums.
It is the distinctive voice that defines this artist. One generally doesn’t hear a voice of that caliber resounding so strongly in a cabaret setting. As evidenced on opening night, it took but a moment to reveal that the audience would be in for the magnetism that Szot brings, as expressed in “Old Devil Moon,” the Burton Lane and E.Y. Harburg song from “Finian’s Rainbow.” He also showed his strength with “You’re All the World To Me,” a Burton Lane-Alan Jay Lerner contribution from the film “Royal Wedding.”
His “Too Late Now,” also from “Royal Wedding,” provided the handsome singer with the opportunity to stress his romantic side, as did “How About You?”--a Burton Lane-Ralph Freed number from the film “Babes on Broadway.” With that one, Szot also indulged his playful side, working in the names of Chita Rivera and Liza Minnelli, both of whom were in the opening night audience.
By the way, the celebrity crowd he drew also included Marilyn Maye, Christine Ebersole and Tommy Tune.
Szot was at ease with a certain amount of patter. He prefaced a love song with ”In Brazil, love is impossible without a drama.” And speaking of Brazil, he makes songs from his home country a vital part of the program, including “Sad (Triste)” by Tom Jobim, “Madalena,” by Ivan Lins and Ronaldo Monteiro de Souza,” “No More Blues (Chega de Saudade)” by Tom Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes and “Retrato Em Branco E Preto” by Tom Jobim and Chico Buarque. With “Madalena” Szot and Stritch amusingly sang together.
Of course, no Szot program would be definitive without his showing off his musical theater chops by singing “This Nearly Was Mine” from “South Pacific,” in which he starred, and also his encore number, “If Ever I Would Leave You” from “Camelot.” Both exemplify why audiences are likely to find Szot such an engaging entertainer in an elegant supper club setting. He dazzles with his baritone as few others do. But I’d like to see him do a program without a mike, only with his natural voice. At the Café Carlyle, Hotel Carlyle, 35 East 76th Street (at Madison Avenue). Phone: 212-744-1600.