Nearly half of the songs that Amanda McBroom performs in her show devoted to love at the Café Carlyle (January 29-February 9, 2013) are her own. And why not? The numbers that she has written solo or with her favorite collaborators have been sung the world over by a variety of artists who admire her work. The double treat in her current show, called “A Valentine Rose,” is that she performs them herself with great style and personality and the self-assurance that reflects the pro that she is.
Of course, she brings passion and insight into the songs of others and that also helps make her appearance so winning, abetted by the piano work of her musical director Michele Brourman, who has collaborated with her on so many of her compositions, and Dan Fabricant on bass. They were in good form on opening night, McBroom’s debut at the fabled supper club.
After a lively start with Cole Porter’s “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love,” we got a taste of the McBroom-Brourman magic with the smoky “Hot in Here,” a low-key expression of breathy, romantic, sexy heat. Then McBroom delivered another result of their collaboration, “Old Love,” a clever reminiscence about school-day love rekindled, but with an amusing lyric kicker at the end.
McBroom deftly mixed her own work with other songs she admired, reminding her audience that the love theme was quite appropriate, given the nearness of Valentine’s Day. She gave a very mellow, longing interpretation of Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” And reaching afar, she sang a number from Belgian composer Madelyn Gardot, “If the Stars Were Mine,” with its creative lyrics and bouncy rhythm.
McBroom turned on the sex appeal fusing vocal and body language as she sang “I’m a Flexible Girl,” a twist on David Cantor’s “Flexible Man.” She has an easy-going way of establishing rapport with an audience, not pressing too hard, but making contact with her relaxed introductions and intimate comments such as “I can stand about five minutes more in these shoes.”
One song that she wrote with John Bucchino is “Beautiful Mistake,” a two-tiered number that extols the pleasure of a love affair even though the relationship turned out to be doomed. On the other hand, humor flows in “Titania,” a McBroom-Brourman concoction riffing on Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with the lyric “Everyone’s Going to Love an Ass Sometime.” Great fun.
McBroom can move from her very wistful composition “Dance” to her swinging Sinatra-like rendition of “The Tender Trap.” A touching interjection was a song she dedicated to her father, the late actor David Bruce, who worked in a variety of old Hollywood films, with the connective tissue resulting in “Errol Flynn,” which McBroom wrote with Gordon Hunt.
No love-oriented program would be complete without her own song “Rose,” one of her big hits that other singers have loved to perform, and McBroom’s performance of it was mesmerizing. Still, I felt that the ultimate highlight of the show was her inflamed, impassioned and dynamic performance of Jacques Brel’s “Marieke. (McBroom, whose broad career includes performing in a variety of stage productions, was in a revival of “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.”)
Among those in the opening night crowd was Judy Collins, who McBroom said inspired her, and who in turn is among the many who have performed McBroom’s songs. The introductory interchange served to accent the special quality of the evening—a chance for audiences to appreciate McBroom’s importance in the music world as song writer fused with her talent and magnetism as a performer, who can do special justice to her own material but also be an able interpreter of the works of others. At the Cafe Carlyle in the Carlyle Hotel, 35 East 76th Street at Madison Avenue, www.thecarlyle.com. Reviewed January 30, 2013.