Musical director Ted Sperling came up with a bright idea in calling upon his friends Howard McGillin and Rebecca Luker to join him in a program dubbed “Broadway Romance” to perform at the Café Carlyle (January 15-26, 2013). McGillin and Luker have the kind of seasoned Broadway show voices that do justice to a repertoire of songs requiring their kind of skill. By building numbers around the theme of romance in various guises, with Sperling providing explanatory intros and accompaniment at the piano, the threesome succeed in delivering a richly entertaining evening.
McGillin, who has been in a variety of Broadway shows, sports leading man charm, and Luker, who also has much Broadway experience, has a golden voice and the actress skills to go with it. They also look good as a team and excel, for example, respectfully singing two anxiety-filled numbers from the show “She Loves Me” (by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick). The characters, who work together in the same shop, have been corresponding romantically unbeknownst to each other and are facing a first meeting. In “Tonight at Eight” McGillin sings nervously about the pending rendezvous and Luker sings “Will He Like Me?” with her own nervousness and hope. The result thoroughly reflects the creativity inherent in the Bock-Harnick work.
With ease McGillin and Luker can venture into Sondheim territory, as when they sing the anxiety-ridden “(Not) Getting Married Today” from “Company.” And, in a further change of pace, they turn on the fun with the clever lyrics of “The Begat” from “Finian’s Rainbow” (Burton Lane and E.Y. Harburg).
Luker revs up her anger and irony singing the tempestuous “Could I Leave You?” from Sondheim’s “Follies.” McGillin sings “How to Handle a Women” (Lerner and Loewe’s “Camelot”), which advises tender loving care as the way. Sperling afterward interjects the information that Lerner, having provided such exquisite advice, was married eight times.
McGillin talks about his children, and Luker talks about hers, which adds poignancy to the performing of the lovely “Our Children” from “Ragtime” (Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens).
It is a special pleasure listening to what Luker can do with a demanding song, such as her singing “The Man I Love” (George and Ira Gershwin), and “Come Rain or Come Shine” (Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer from “St. Louis Woman”).
Other numbers in their repertoire include “Something’s Coming ” (Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim from “West Side Story”); “First Date” and “Last Night” (Benj Pasek and Justin Paul from “Dogfight”); “Almost Like Being in Love” (Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe from “Brigadoon”), “This Can’t Be Love” (Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart from “The Boys From Syracuse”); “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” (Frank Loesser from “Guys and Dolls”); “An Old Fashioned Wedding” (Irving Berlin from “Annie Get Your Gun”); “Buddy’s Blues” (Stephen Sondheim from “Follies”), and “They Were You” (Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones from the off-Broadway “The Fantasticks”).
While one can enjoy pop tunes sung by a different breed of entertainer, there is something extra special about the songs that have emerged from shows through the years and those who have performed them with expertise. McGillin, Luker and Sperling honor the tradition with welcome style and know-how. At Café Carlyle, Carlyle Hotel, Madison Avenue at 76th Street. www.thecarlyle.com. Review posted January 17, 2013.