Outside it was cold, slushy and slippery, but inside there was the warm glow of an evening with the ever-delightful husband and wife team Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano, this time saluting the late lyricist Sammy Cahn in the centennial year of his birth. The title of the show, which I saw last night (December 17, 2013), the final performance of their series at the Triad, said a lot-- “Rat Pack Poet: Songs of Sammy Cahn.” It is a program that bears repeating, as the lyricist, working with various composers, had pop hit after hit in his long writing tenure marked by sparkling talent.
Amiable Comstock, skillfully at the piano with charmingly performed vocals as well, and Fasano, with her expertise in interpreting a lyric with warmth, intelligence and, when called for, humor, are an engaging combo, as I have noted of their previous musical expeditions. On this occasion they also provided two additional treats, dynamic singer Jeff Harnar as a special guest, and the excellent work of noted Boots Maleson on bass.
Setting a jaunty tone, Eric and Barbara opened with “You’re a Lucky Guy,” (music by Saul Chapin), and Eric followed with a solo, “Come Blow Your Horn” (music by Cahn’s frequent collaborator James Van Heusen). As part of the engaging informational patter dispensed by both performers, it was at one point noted that Van Heusen was an adopted name, reportedly chosen because “he liked the shirts.”
One especially touching song was Barbara’s interpretation of “Please Be Kind” (Saul Chaplin), expressing an inexperienced young woman’s plea to be treated gently in a beginning relationship. Fasano sang it with moving vocal and verbal tenderness.
Another sensitive portion was an example of how Cahn’s lyrics tapped into the longings of couples separated when soldiers departed for service in World War II. Comstock stressed the circumstances and the era singing, “I’ll Walk Alone” and “Saturday Night is the Loneliest Night in the Week” (Jule Styne), As he sang I thought the sentiments equally apply to couples with men and women serving abroad today.
Just how prolific Cahn was could be experienced via other numbers on the Comstock-Fasano program, which included: ”The Things We Did Last Summer,” “The Brooklyn Bridge,” “Wonder Why,” “It’s the Same Old Dream,” “Incurably Romantic,” “Call me Irresponsible,” “I Like to Lead When I Dance,” “Guess I‘ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry.,” “Love and Marriage,” “All My Tomorrows” and more.
Jeff Harnar in his guest star appearance quickly established his credentials with a dynamic rendering of “All the Way” (music by Van Heusen). He scored further with the lively “Put ‘Em in a Box, Tie ‘Em With a Ribbon” (Styne) and “I Fall in Love Too Easily” (Styne). Harner also showed his adeptness with informational tidbits, recalling how Cahn was known for satirizing his own songs, as with “This Is My First Affair,” adding the line “Tell me what goes where.”
Harnar, Eric and Barbara teamed on “Come Fly With Me,” “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head,” “The Tender Trap” and “Time After Time.” Barbara and Eric got the last word, appropriately singing “The Last Dance.”
It was a very full, entertaining show that invited having a further run. At the Triad, 158 West 72nd Street. Phone: 212- 365-8693. Reviewed December 18, 2013.