The new show that French chanteuse Yvonne Constant has titled “What Now…” is a very personal one. She dedicates it to her late husband, industrial show producer Mike Lanin, in the booking at the Metropolitan Room with the remaining dates of March 18, April 7 and April 14. This is her first cabaret appearance since Lanin’s death last April. While looking back, Constant is also looking forward and her fresh start solidly demonstrates her expertise anew. She charmingly provides class in bringing the world of French songs to New York as well as international hits, and her enduring professionalism shines through.
“Mike was everything to me,” she said during her opening night performance (March 10, 2015), making the point of how hard her loss hit her. She lightened the mood with an anecdote of how she and Lanin met ten years after she was a hit on Broadway in “La Plume de Ma Tante” and he told her that when he saw the show he had his eyes on her. When she sings “To Be Not So Alone” (Music by Sebastien Balasko, French lyrics by Daniel Faure, English lyrics by Will Holt), an audience can make the connection with her feelings.
However, there is nothing downbeat about her performance. Constant brims with her customary continental style as she eases through her repertoire. She takes the stage wearing a sparkling black, sequined outfit with a skirt well above the knees, showing her often-described legs that one would associate with a much younger woman.
Her musical director and pianist is the accomplished Russ Kassoff, with whom she has had a long working relationship, reflected in the easy-going banter between them. Kassoff does some performing on his own, at times signing the English translation with Cosntant singing the French lyrics, as with “A Quoi Ca Sert L’Amour” (“What Is the Use of Love?’), music and lyrics by Michel Emer, English lyrics by Will Holt.
Constant can alternate between a Charles Aznavour number like “Le Temps” (“This Time, This Time”) and a music-by-Steve Ross song, “Whenever I Think of Paris” (lyrics by Barry Day). One of her electrically delivered numbers is “Et Maintenant” –“What Now My Love” (Music by Gilbert Becaud, French Lyrics by Pierre Delanoe, English lyrics by Carl Sigman). Another sung with fervor is “Ne Me Quitte Pas” (“If You Go Away” ), with music and French lyrics by Jacques Brel, English lyrics by Rod McKuen. She also delves convincingly into Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht with “Tango Ballad” and “Bilbao Song.”
Constant’s show had an appealingly entertaining finish on opening night. Star performer Mark Nadler was in the audience and Constant invited him on stage to sing with her, He obliged at they both seemed to have fun with “It Was a Good Time” (Music and lyrics by Michael Charles Curb, Mack David and Maurice Jarre), with Constant concluding solo.
Constant’s latest appearance provides a very good time. At the Metropolitan Room, 34 West 22nd Street. Phone: 212-206-0440. Reviewed March 12, 2015.