By William Wolf

STEVE ROSS DOES JUSTICE TO FRED ASTAIRE  Send This Review to a Friend

Just about every time Steve Ross finishes a number in his “Puttin’ on the Ritz” salute to Fred Astaire in the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel (Jan. 19-Feb 6, 2010) he flashes a smile of satisfaction. It is an indication of how much he enjoys performing the songs that Astaire sang at one time or another, and as usual for this suave, skilled and pleasing cabaret star, he transfers his own pleasure to his audience. Ross is an icon who has raised the singer-pianist form of entertainment to the nth degree and his artistry is as enchanting as ever.

Both with his piano playing and his singing, Ross speeds us on an adventure with sophisticated interpretations and varying rhythms. He also digs deeply into the meaning of the lyrics, yet always maintaining his jaunty style, which come to think of it, is thoroughly in keeping with the debonair manner that was so appealing about Astaire. Ross also takes time to provide us with background information that in itself is entertaining.

Ross clearly has a romantic feeling about so many of the numbers he chooses. He prefaces his rendition of Irving Berlin’s “Isn’t It a Lovely Day?” by calling it “one of the most beautiful songs ever written.” Lamenting the lack of a dance floor, he at one point in introducing a number playfully suggests that audiences have been known to sway at their tables.

And what an avalanche of songs Ross presents. The treasure trove from which he chooses is extremely rich, provided by legendary composers and lyricists. His repertoire includes, for example, “Cheek to Cheek” (Berlin); “A Fine Romance” (Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kern); “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” of course (Berlin); “I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plan” (Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz); “I Wanna Be a Dancin’ Man” (Johnny Mercer and Harry Warren); “Thank You So Much Mrs. Loughsborough-Goodby” (Cole Porter); “They Can’t Take that Away from Me” (George and Ira Gershwin)—the list goes on and on.

If you want a lift from the pressures of our times or your daily routine, a sure bet is to head for the Oak Room and let Steve Ross lift your spirits with his inimitable style and joyful menu of hit songs capturing the era of Astaire and reviving memories of his unique singing and dancing. Ross too is unique, and being in his cabaret company is a tonic. At the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel, 59 West 44th Street. Reservations: 212-419-9331 or bmcgurn@algonquinhotel.com.

  

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