On opening night of her “Swing This” show at the Café Carlyle (March 19-30, 2013), Debby Boone recalled that when she was a youngster while her father Pat Boone was performing during the 1960s in Las Vegas at the Sands and Sahara hotels, she peeked into a lounge and saw a woman singing. She immediately thought that’s what she would like to do. Her wish came true, and Boone shows herself to be sort of a lounge act singer, or maybe the kind of singer who would have fronted for big bands of an earlier era. In fact, she has a rather big band behind her in her new gig—a nine-piece team headed by the gifted musical director/pianist/arranger John Oddo, a solid group that makes its mark while not overwhelming the intimate room.
Boone, who has had hit records, won Grammy awards and nominations and performed on Broadway, brings along the history of experiences in the shadow of her father, as well as having toured with her late mother-in-law Rosemary Clooney. She peppered her opening night show with references to those whom she got to know from childhood, such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., although it was hard to work up any twinge of sympathy when she described the life’s troubles those stars had, given our knowledge of the hell-raising fun the Rat Pack guys enjoyed.
All of this was, of course, background to Debby Boone’s performance itself. Looking good, she turned up in a floor-length black gown with thin straps and bared shoulders, all emphasizing her trim figure. She seemed relaxed, professional and enjoying herself, mugging a lot, as she zipped through a repertoire of standards. She prefaced “These Boots Are Made for Walking” by hoisting a shapely leg to reveal the high-heeled, boot-like shoes that she was sporting. “I couldn’t resist,” she said.
Not a song-stylist, she sings forthrightly and entertainingly, establishing a pleasant mood, which she varies according to her song choices. Boone sailed into a bouncy version of “Mack the Knife,” with an after-thought that maybe with so much blood being spilled in the song, it shouldn’t be that much fun. But, she noted, yet it is.
She veered to softness with such numbers as “More Than You Know,” “It Never Entered My Mind” and “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning.” She told her audience how much she admired Barbra Streisand and had the nerve to sing the song she fell in love with when she heard Streisand sing it—“Cry Me a River.” Again linking to her past, she recalled how Dean Martin playfully mocked her father for not drinking,and she followed with her version of Martin’s enduring hit “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime.”
Other numbers she served up included the peppy “I’m Gonna Live Till I Die,” “Sway” “That Old Black Magic, “’Round Midnight” and “You and the Night and the Music.”
Boone provided a big surprise for her encore. The great guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli joined her on stage to expertly accompany her in a quiet, intimate rendition of “Be Careful Its My Heart.” It was definitely a coup of a finale. At the Café Carlyle, Carlyle Hotel, 35 East 76th Street (at Madison Avenue), www.thecarlyle.com. Reviewed March 20, 2013.