When you go to a performance by attractive international chanteuse Adrienne Haan, you can count on a dynamic night. She was aiming especially high in her most recent show at the Metropolitan Room last night (September 28, 2016). This time, in singing numbers of composer Kurt Weill (1900-1950), she had a six-member musical aggregation, large for the size of the venue, but perfectly balanced between Haan and back-up. In any event, it would be hard to drown out Haan when she gives a song her all in interpretations that demonstrate her prowess as an actress as well as singer.
The place was jam-packed, with an unfulfilled waiting list, with the result that a repeat performance has been scheduled at the Metropolitan Room at 7 p.m. on Sunday, October 30. Haan justifiably has her following as a result of her enthusiastically received performances here and abroad.
On this occasion the show, smartly directed by Barry Kleinbort, with music direction by Richard Danley, also at the piano, included a variety of numbers composed by Weill, with lyrics in both German and in English. Haan grew up in Germany, so Weill’s work with Bertolt Brecht is a natural for her. When she sinks her teeth into “Pirate Jenny” from “The Threepenny Opera,” it becomes a major theatrical performance, laced with savage desire for revenge as Haan underlines lyrics with hate.
On the other hand, she injects bubbly fun into Weill’s and Ira Gershwin’s “The Saga of Jenny” from the Broadway show “Lady in the Dark.” From Weill’s Broadway period she also sang “My Ship” from “Lady in the Dark” and “Speak Low” from “One Touch of Venus.” Her selections also dug into lesser know Weil numbers written during his career.
Haan is also a story teller, recounting growing up memories and at first cringing at the idea of having to study Brecht at school. She gives biographical information on Weill and his escaping from the growing menace of Nazism in Germany and his efforts to become solidly American to the point of Americanizing the the pronunciation of his name.
She also has a sharp taste for satire. She prefaced singing the 1930 “Alabama Song,” another of Weill’s collaborations with Brecht, with a note of her own visit to Alabama in the U.S., toying with an American accent of Alabaaaama. She then sang the number with an amusing comedic tone, and strolled through the audience getting members to chip in with the refrain.
But Haan is especially memorable for such potent numbers as “Surabaya Johnny” from “Happy End,” in German by Brecht, and in English by Herbert Hartig, with her own adaptation. She delivers an original style to the famous “The Ballad of Mack, The Knife.”
It is something to see the way Haan can captivate an audience from the moment she starts. She projects drama in just about everything she sings, accented with broad body movement, and where called for, shrieks of agony. Her over-sized personality permeates the room, but the key is that it is backed by an always-effective singing voice that justifies her histrionics.
Her repertoire was enhanced by the backup musicianship and arrangements of Julian Ritter. In addition to her long-time musical director Richard Danley’s leadership at the piano, there was the Novembergruppe Quintet, with members Dan Levinson on clarinet and alto saxophone; Jonathan David Russell, violin; Vinny Raniolo, guitar and banjo; Jared Engel, bass and tuba, and Mike Campenni, drums. The larger-than-usual musical contingent for the room definitely added to the perspective and solidity of the show. At the Metropolitan Room, 34 West 22nd Street. Phone: 212-206-0440. Reviewed September 29, 2016.