Right Tune, Right Singer: Pure Alchemy

From The New York Times
By Stephen Holden

January 29, 2013

 

“Bemused,” the title of the singer Christine Andreas’s deliciously tangy show at 54 Below, is one of the most misused and hard-to-pin-down words in the English language. As Ms. Andreas reflected on its meanings at Sunday evening’s opening-night performance, one synonym, “thunderstruck,” stood out.

For her, she said, it evokes the explosive chemistry when a singer or composer and the right song collide. That would describe Judy Garland and “Get Happy!”; Ethel Waters and “Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe”; Astrud Gilberto and any song composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim; Richard Harris and the songs of Jimmy Webb; and “those very bad boys” Frank Sinatra (with, in her words, his “Jack Daniel’s-soaked heart”) and Jimmy Van Heusen.

The show’s least-known magical connection was Vivienne Segal and two Rodgers and Hart songs, “To Keep My Love Alive,” from the 1943 revival of “A Connecticut Yankee,” and “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered,” from “Pal Joey.” “To Keep My Love Alive,” the confessions of a serial murderer as to how she dispatched several flawed husbands, Ms. Andreas delivered with a mischievous glee. Her extremely sexy version of “Bewitched” revolved around the words “I’m a rich, ready, ripe juicy plum again.”

Ms. Andreas might be described as a recovering ingénue. The days are long gone when she starred on Broadway in revivals of “My Fair Lady” and “Oklahoma!,” but her beauty and radiance remain undimmed. Her bright, shiny soprano, with its wheeling vibrato and metallic edge, conveys a high-strung emotionality that is sharpened by her acting skills.

Her musicians, the pianist Don Rebic and the bassist Dick Sarpola, maintained a low profile in refined pop-jazz arrangements that encouraged Ms. Andreas to fly as far and wide as she wished. As the evening progressed, her phrasing became increasingly emphatic and at moments almost feisty.

Of all the connections Ms. Andreas made, the most exciting, if unlikely, was with Édith Piaf in a Parisian section that began with “I Love Paris,” declaimed as an anthem. There was nothing demure about her full-bodied renditions of “Milord” and “La Vie en Rose.” She might as well have been standing at the barricades.

 


 

No Surprise Here: Christine Andreas’s ‘Bemused’ Hits All The Right Notes

From The New York Observer
By Rex Reed

 

54 Below, New York’s beautiful new cabaret room in the renovated basement of the once-notorious Studio 54 disco, is playing host this week (through Feb. 2) to golden girl Christine Andreas. The ambience still exudes the decadence of its former tenant, but Ms. Andreas spreads nothing but sunshine. “Bemused,” the delightful, musically eclectic new act she has written herself, is carefully designed to illustrate the varied definitions of that all-encompassing word. This gives the charming, multi-talented song stylist myriad moods to explore, and a challenging repertoire of songs to explore them in. There’s something for everybody.

Mr. Webster’s uses for the word “bemused” include “immersed,” “surprised,” and “thunderstruck”—but Ms. Andreas’  favorite definition of “bemused,” she says, is the kind of spark that only occurs when the right singer meets the right song (or songwriter). A few perfect examples range from Judy Garland and Harold Arlen (“Get Happy!”, which she turns into a one-woman revival meeting), to all those tailored-to-fit collaborations between Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Van Heusen, who shared a passion for booze, broads and take-home tunes like “All My Tomorrows,” “Come Fly With Me” and “The Tender Trap.” This is a canon that provides a pretty good cross-section of shifting musical tempos and lyrical attitudes, on which Ms. Andreas polishes with acting chops that match her vocal skills. Her vibrant soprano, well remembered from her Broadway stardom in My Fair Lady, Jekyll and Hyde, and, most recently, the revival of La Cage aux Folles, has not diminished, and her swinging lower register is jazzier than ever. With Dick Sarpola on bass and veteran accompanist Don Rebic on piano, she spells perfection on every song. And what songs! From pensive (recalling Ethel Waters on another Arlen song, “Happiness is a Thing Called Joe”) to insouciant (recreating the crooning Brazilian style of Astrud Gilberto singing her way to stardom in the bossa nova world of Antonio Carlos Jobim) to the pop niche carved by Dionne Warwick on those catchy Hal David-Burt Bachrach tunes like “Alfie,” she irons the wrinkles out of even the most banal lyric and adds her own starch. One surprise: a tribute to the great Lorenz Hart, who was gay but who nevertheless penned some of his best lyrics for his favorite unrequited love, actress Vivienne Segal—“To Keep My Love Alive,” about a serial killer who dreams up ingenious ways to bump off a succession of husbands, and the classic “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” which she sang to a Broadway newcomer named Gene Kelly in the original production of Pal Joey. I could do without another re-tread of Edith Piaf’s “La vie en Rose” but her firebrand soprano reaches heights of emotion that can only be described “undiluted passion.” It’s not just the sweetness of her sound, but the versatility, range and musical savvy beneath the purity of that sound. She doesn’t just make the kind of pretty notes you expect from polished sopranos—she adjusts the timbre and modulates the strength or softness that fills the needs of every song at hand. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that she is as easy on the eyes as she is on the ears.

She can sing sugar. She can sing torrid. With this carefully-structured, well-rounded, painstakingly-researched show, you get your money’s worth.

 


Christine Andreas: ‘Bemused’

From The Wall Street Journal

 

There are few greater experiences than seeing Christine Andreas singing traditional pop and theater songs, and the selections in this show are likewise some of the best songs in the canon. “Bemused” takes its theme from the “collision” of superior singers and great songwriters, but it’s really just a clothesline from which to hang one showstopper after another. A major contemporary voice in musical theater who affirms that theater singing is more about subtlety than power, she scores heavily here with “All My Tomorrows” (in honor of the Sammy Cahn-Jimmy Van Heusen Centennial), which had everyone in the room weeping. So did her soaring reading of one of Jimmy Webb’s more folk-ish airs, “The Moon’s a Harsh Mistress.” By the time the encore arrives, you want to her sing every great role that’s ever been written.

 


 

Christine Andreas: Bemused

The two-time Tony Award nominee delivers remarkably fresh takes on a series of great standards in her stunning new show at 54 Below.
 
From BroadwayWorld.com
By Brian Scott Lipton
 

As Christine Andreas explains shortly after taking the stage at 54 Below, the title of her stunning new cabaret show, Bemused, has many definitions in the Merriam-Webster dictionary–from confused to amused–but none of them apply directly to what she has brilliantly put together in this 70-minute parade of classic tunes that showcase the perfect match of songwriter and original singer (in other words, Be Mused).

For a less seasoned artist, this sort of show would be a fool’s errand, where a performer would be destined to fail in comparison to such legends as Barbra Streisand and Dionne Warwick. However, this two-time Tony Award nominee (Oklahoma! On Your Toes)–with more than three decades of acting under her belt, combined with a flexible, highly expressive soprano–simply rises to her own challenge, finding ways to make these oft-performed standards sound utterly fresh while simultaneously honoring their musical roots.

After starting off on a slightly surprising, but surefooted, note with a jazzy rendition of Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler’s “Get Happy” and an almost delicate take on Arlen and Yip Harburg’s “Happiness is Just a Thing Called Joe,” Andreas delivers her first knockout punch of the evening, with a trio of Brazilian classics, “The Girl from Ipanema,” “Desifinado,” and “Wave,” sung with a sultriness that instantly transports audiences away from chilly New York and straight down to South America.

Next up is a simply stunning version of Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen’s “All My Tomorrows,” followed by a medley of finger-snapping tunes also made famous by Frank Sinatra (“Come Fly With Me,” “The Tender Trap,” and “Come Blow Your Horn”) that nicely evokes the 1950s and 1960s as Andreas shows off a gently swinging side to her musical personality.

Still, it’s the latter half of Bemused during which Andreas basically stops her own show with each number. Rarely have I heard as deeply felt versions of Michel Legrand and Marilyn and Alan Bergman’s “The Summer Knows,” Jimmy Webb’s “Didn’t We” and “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress,” and Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Alfie” and “What the World Needs Now.” In each selection, Andreas gives full weight to the poetic lyrics of these songs in such a way that you may fully understand the words for the first time.

Speaking of words, few writers had as finely wrought a gift for them as Lorenz Hart, and Andreas does his work justice by wringing all the comic juice out of his wickedly funny “To Keep My Love Alive,” about a woman who keeps offing her husband. After that, Andreas simply devours every inch of Hart’s masterpiece “Bewitched,” in which a middle-aged woman marvels at her surprising romance with a younger man. (Both songs were written for the great actress Vivenne Segal, with whom Hart was so besotted he proposed marriage to her three times, even though Hart was gay).

Andreas concludes her set with two songs made famous by the great Edith Piaf, “Milord” and “La Vie En Rose,” both sung in French and delivered with such passion and fervor, they transcend any language barrier and provide a fantastic finale for this superbly structured show.

 


 

Christine Andreas: Bemused

From BroadwayWorld.com
By Stephen Hanks

 

Even her biggest fans among the opening night crowd were likely befuddled, slightly bothered, and even a tad bewildered when they heard that Christine Andreas’ first cabaret show at 54 Below was called Bemused, and not exactly sure what that meant. But they would ultimately end up being thoroughly bewitched by a wonderfully engaging show by this totally entertaining pro. While most current or former Broadway stars who are staging shows at 54 Below are performing what amounts to mini-concerts, the lady who first became a Broadway audience favorite as Eliza Doolittle in the 20th anniversary production of My Fair Lady (and is two-time Tony Award nominee) knows her way around cabaret and developed a charmingly creative conceit for this run (continuing on Jan. 29, Feb. 1, 2 at 8:30 pm and Jan. 30, 31 at 7 pm), which included songs from Broadway, pop, the Great American Songbook, and even Edith Piaf.

Entering in a tight, floor-length red evening gown, the still-ravishing brunette opened jazzy and upbeat with Harold Arlen’s “Get Happy” (lyrics Ted Koehler), one of the many songs associated with Judy Garland. Then the audience discovered her intention behind the show title. Andreas’ definition of “bemused” (which actually means to be bewildered or confused by a thought or question) separates the syllables as if it had been a compound word and for Andreas it becomes “Be Mused,” as in someone who has been so influenced by someone else that he or she becomes the focus and inspiration for that person’s creative work. “It’s the spark that ignites when the right singer and songwriter collide,” she adds. What’s difficult to determine in some of the famous musical collaborations she highlights in this show is who exactly was the muser and who was the musee. What’s not difficult to determine is that when it comes to being a muse, Christine Andreas must know whereof she speaks. During her many years as a performer, this stunning songbird has no doubt been a muse, either in reality or fantasy, for many men–and likely a fair amount of women.

It’s something Christine probably has in common with Astrud Gilberto, who was apparently a muse for three great musicians, her husband Joao, Stan Getz, and especially Antonio Carlos Jobim. Astrud was the voice behind Jobim’s classic international 1964 hit “The Girl From Ipanema,” recorded with Getz and Joao, and Astrud became Jobim’s go-to singer. Andreas was bossa nova sultry on a medley of “Ipanama,” and Jobim’s “Desafinado” and “Wave,” which the great Brazilian composer recorded with Frank Sinatra, a connection which became a mutual muse admiration society during the 1960s and ’70s. Andreas seamlessly transitioned into the prolific connection between Sinatra and songwriters Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen,who wrote countless hits for “Ol’ Blue Eyes.” She was absolutely lovely on “All My Tomorrows,” before making her case for being a retroactive member of The Rat Pack with “Come Fly With Me,” “The Tender Trap” and “Come Blow Your Horn.”

If you didn’t know that Andreas was another great singer who was clearly influenced by Barbra Streisand, you’d figure it out listening to her beautifully envelop the audience with her luscious soprano on the Michel Legrand’s wistful “The Summer Knows” (the theme from the film Summer of ’42), whose lyricists Marilyn and Alan Bergman have been almost synonymous with Streisand during her career. Christine’s Musical Director Don Rebic dazzled here with a lush piano arrangement that was supported by Dick Sarpola’s romantic bass.

Andreas soared on Jimmy Webb ballads associated with Richard Harris (“Didn’t We”) and Glen Campbell (“The Moon is a Harsh Mistress’), produced a sensual vibrato and breathy end phrases to Burt Bacharach/Hal David classics sung by Dionne Warwick (“Alfie” and “What the World Needs Now”), and was alternately operatic and playful on “To Keep My Love Alive,” the biting lyric about a serial husband killer that Lorenz Hart (with Richard Rodgers music) wrote for musical theater star of the 1920s-’40s Vivienne Segal in A Connecticut Yankee. “Hart asked Segal to marry him three times,” Andreas revealed, “and he was gay.” She then launched into an awesomely sexy and sassy rendition of the Rodgers and Hart classic, “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” that Segal introduced in 1940 in the musical Pal Joey. I know the show had a recent revival, but some producer should bring it back for a short run just so Andreas can play Vera Simpson.

Andreas’ finale highlighted a female-to-female muse connection, which was one of the most successful in modern musical history–that of Edith Piaf with French songwriter Marguerite Monnot. As she did at this October’s Cabaret Convention at Rose Hall at Lincoln Center, Christine compelled the audience into rhythmic clapping with her raucous yet seductive turn on the up-tempo dance hall song, “Milord.” The 54 Below crowd had barely finished their first standing ovation when Andreas cleverly slipped in a few bars of Cole Porter’s “I Love Paris,” before combining power and tenderness on Piaf’s classic “La Vie En Rose.” After the second standing O, one could only wonder how long it might be before her old fans–and now the new ones–would be coming back for Bemused 2.

 


 

Christine Andreas is “Be-Mused” at 54 Below

From The Examiner
By Sandi Durell

 

Suffering from the remnants of a cold on the evening I attended, vocal angel Christine Andreas took on an even more exciting addition to her colorful intonations – sultry, sexy low tones. As she noted “the bloom may be off the rose, but it’s still a rose!”

Stunning, as always, in a long red fitted gown, the chanteuse easily set the tone of the evening with Arlen/Koehler’s “Get Happy” and went on to explain the derivation of bemused or in this case, be-mused. It turns out that whether one is astounded, mystified, intrigued or thunderstruck, the significance all boils down to a singer and songwriter colliding. Such as Harold Arlen when he met Judy Garland. There was the same combustion when Arlen met Ethel Waters – from the depths and reverie of sensuality, Ms. Andreas, her phrasing and diction impeccable, flows in, around and through “Happiness Is Just a Thing Called Joe.”

The colorful palette of songs, matching singers and songwriters, was 70 minutes of vocal intrigue; what would surely be a daunting exercise for most singers. But for Ms. Andreas, a two time Tony Award Nominee (Oklahoma, On Your Toes), blessed with a stunning vocal expertise, she moved easily through Brazilian classics “Ipanema/Desafinado/Wave” – another example of collision – Stan Getz, Astrid Gilberto, Jobim, continuing on to the pairing of Jimmy Van Heusen who kept Frank Sinatra swinging with “Come Fly With Me/Tender Trap/Come Blow Your Horn,” and also very drunk, giving her a chance to swing with the best of them. And we love hearing all those backstage gossip stories.

Soaring with desire, Andreas offers a brilliant rendition of “The Summer Knows” (Legrand/Bergmans) punctuated by Don Rebic’s outstanding solo on piano (Dick Sarpola on bass). It was one punch after another, from Jimmy Webb’s poetic “Didn’t We,” filled with wistful mysteriousness, into a whispered, breathy “Moon’s A Harsh Mistress.” Moving on to Hal David/Burt Bacharach, Andreas soared with a powerful “What The World Needs Now” and showed off her comedic talents with Larry Hart’s wicked lyrics “To Keep My Love Alive” by offing all those husbands, and telling the back story of Hart’s intrigue with actress Vivienne Segal (A Connecticut Yankee) for whom it was written.

How one singer can interpret so many tried and true standards and familiar songs and add new dimensions, is a feat not to be taken lightly. Andreas bemused her audience throughout the show and kept raising the ante, as on “Bewitched” – sultry, sexy, sassy – finally releasing with French standards, the raunchy “Milord” and pensive “La Vie En Rose.” One of the most perfect voices around, Christine Andreas is not to be missed!

 


 

Christine Andreas: Bemused 54 Below

From Concerts & Cabaret
By Michael Portantiere

 

A generation ago, Christine Andreas emerged as a great Broadway musical theater star in milestone revivals of My Fair Lady, Oklahoma!and On Your Toes. Changes in the industry, along with some family issues, kept her away from Broadway for some time, but she reemerged in The Scarlet Pimpernel and was most recently seen as Jacqueline in the 2010 La Cage aux Folles. I must mention as well her superb performance as Margaret Johnson in the national tour of The Light in the Piazza, which I was lucky enough to see twice.

Andreas has also been a sparkling presence on the cabaret scene over the past several years, and she’s now making her debut at the beautifully appointed, excitingly booked, superbly well managed, newish venue 54 Below. With Don Rebic as her musical director/pianist, and Dick Sarpola on bass, her new act is a terrific showcase for Andreas’ magnificent voice and her great talent as an interpreter of lyrics. No kidding, this lady sings as well if not better than ever; her voice remains perfectly equalized throughout its wide range, with no obvious register break, and is made all the more lovely by the feathery vibrato at the very core of the tone. Plus, she looks so absolutely fabulous in middle age that one imagines she might have been a movie star if her career had played out differently.

Her 54 Below show is titled Bemused—an odd choice, given the mostly negative connotations of that word and despite Andreas’ attempt to redefine it. The title also seems inappropriate to the content of the show, which consists of tributes to musical artists of many different stripes. But with singing of this caliber, such objections are little more than quibbles.

Andreas’s wonderfully malleable vocal instrument and stylistic virtuosity serve her well in the hommages presented here. She begins by offering up “Get Happy” as a Judy Garland/Harold Arlen tribute, then salutes Arlen and Ethel Waters with “Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe.” As the well-researched program continues, Andreas, Rebic and Sarpola tip their hats to Astrud Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim (“The Girl from Ipanema,” “Desafinado”), Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Van Heusen (a medley), Jimmy Webb (“Didn’t We,” “The Moon’s a Harsh Mistress”), and Hal David/Burt Bacharach (“Alfie,” “What the World Needs Now”).

To my ears, Andreas sings French like a native, and her “Français parfait” is demonstrated here in stirring renditions of Edith Piaf’s “Milord” and “La Vie en Rose.” Another late-in-the-show highlight is her performance of Rodgers and Hart’s “Bewitched,” which was introduced in the original Broadway production of Pal Joey by Vivienne Segal in the role of Vera Simpson—a role that Andreas made her own in a 2002 production of the show at the Prince Music Theater in Philadelphia.

 


 

Bemused, Bothered & Bewildered ….

From The NY Theatre Wire
By Elizabeth Ahlfors

 

“There is not a singing style or composer’s songbook that this enchanting entertainer cannot illuminate with indelible charm, wit and elegance. A class act, Christine Andreas secures an important place in the intimacy of the cabaret world.

Andreas’ style reflects the phrasing of Frank Sinatra, her lines flowing smoothly, her stress and phrasing animating the story.”

 


 

Be Captivated at 54 Below

From Times Square Chronicles
By Alix Cohen

 

“Really, one could listen for hours.  (Christine Andreas) can be jaunty and bright without turning brassy; modulated without losing resonance. Ballads are luxurious. More gossamer notes never grow thinner, they cinematically fade.

Christine Andreas is elegant, graceful, engaging, and smart.  She has a finely wrought instrument and the skills and intelligence to make the most of it.”

 


 

Christine Andreas- Bemused
Feinsteins’ at the Nikko

From Cabaret Scenes
By Steve Murray

August 2, 2013

 

I know it’s only August, but Christine Andreas’ Bemused may be the best show of the year. Her intention was to showcase a selection of ‘perfect songs’ interpreted by the ‘perfect singer’ (e.g. an elegant, relaxed version of Harold Arlen’s “Happiness Is Just A Thing Called Joe” as sung by the great Ethel Waters and Sam Kahn and Jimmy Van Heusen’s “All My Tomorrows as sung by Frank Sinatra), but with her pitch perfect voice and great emotive range, Andreas all but obliterates any memory of the original hit by possessing every number offered as her own.

Her backstories on the pairing of songwriter to vocalists were illuminating and her choice of material (chosen with pianist/collaborator Don Rebic) sterling. Michel Legrand’s haunting melody “Summer Knows” becomes pure enchantment through Andreas’ graceful treatment of the Bergman’s poignant lyric. A celebrated Broadway actor, Andreas knows how to coax the passions out of her material, hitting high notes on Jimmy Webb’s “Didn’t We”, an ode to Richard Harris and the Dionne Warwick/Burt Bacharach/ Hal David collaboration on “Alfie”. She takes a comical turn on the Rodgers/Hart tune “To Keep My Love Alive” sung by Vivienne Segal in 1943’s A Connecticut Yankee and covered by other notable comic vocalists like Blossom Dearie, Nancy Walker and Elaine Stritch and would’ve made Edith Piaf and songwriter Marguerite Monnot proud with her renditions of “La Vie en Rose” and the rousing saloon song “Milord” (performed in French).

Andreas has a startlingly perfect delivery; subtle and plaintive when necessary, able to elevate her volume like a young Eydie Gorme or concert Garland , all the while retaining control and masterful phrasing. Bemused works on every level, and Andreas, the consummate concert performer, is a joy to behold.