Here’s To The Ladies at The Cafe Carlyle
To the Divas Who Put the D in Divine The New York Times
By Stephen Holden
When Christine Andreas sings, you’re in the presence of a true believer in the impossible dreams most of us have put aside or at least modified as we’ve grown up.
Ms. Andreas may be over 40, but she still projects the blushing radiance of an ingénue. And in her new show, “Here’s to the Ladies: A Songbook of Broadway’s First Ladies,” her princess-in-waiting aura is enhanced by the role of adoring acolyte to the legendary divas of yesteryear.
The show, which runs through April 7 at at the Cafe (35 East 76th Street, Manhattan), is a well-chosen songbook of numbers associated with Ethel Merman, Mary Martin, Gertrude Lawrence, Barbara Cook, Julie Andrews, Helen Morgan, Angela Lansbury and Barbra Streisand, each of whom is introduced with her own star-struck personal anecdote. Ms. Cook, who’s still going strong, is praised for showing that “ingénues don’t have to be wimps,” while Merman is celebrated for not being “as soft and as pink as a nursery.”
The role of acolyte suits Ms. Andreas especially well, since she made her name on Broadway stepping into Ms. Andrews’s shoes as Eliza Doolittle in a revival of “My Fair Lady,” and because her voice, with its sweet, hummingbird vibrato, still conveys the bursting eagerness of someone yearning to please.
Accompanied on piano by Lee Musiker (whose gorgeous jazzy improvisations stretch her singing in a pop-jazz direction) and on bass by Dick Sarpola, Ms. Andreas lightly glosses the styles of several of the legends being honored. “Some People” from “Gypsy,” for instance, is inflected with an emphatic Mermanesque nasality, while “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” is tinged with a Martin-like playfulness.
Although Ms. Andreas can be witty and playful, it is on the ballads (especially “They Say It’s Wonderful” and “Bill”) in which she delicately kills with the sheer beauty of her voice. It’s almost enough to turn one back into a true believer.
By Liz Smith
Appearing for her second season at the delicious Cafe Carlyle is the marvelous, mighty mite, Christine Andreas. The petite and sexy Christine is singing a grand grab bag of showtunes made famous by Broadway’s first ladies, such as Ethel Merman, Mary Martin, Gertrude Lawrence, Julie Andrews, Barbara Cook, Angela Lansbury -and Andreas. If you are a true Broadway musical fan, you’ll be able to match those names to titles such as “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” “My Ship,” “Will He Like Me?” “They Say It’s Wonderful,” and “I Could Have Danced All Night.”
By David Hurst
From time to time, all actors and performers experience a terrifying dream wherein they are on stage and are either naked or in a play they don’t know. Christopher Durang wrote a one-act play that wonderfully illuminated this phenomenon called The Actor’s Nightmare, which is now considered a modern classic. Last week at The Café Carlyle, Durang would have been amused to see how the lovely and talented Christine Andreas handled her own version of the actor’s nightmare when her gown for the opening night performance failed to arrive at the hotel. Never let it be said that Andreas is not a resourceful girl. She grabbed her oversized trench coat, rolled up her sleeves (literally and figuratively) and swept into the room looking sexy and confident with nothing more than a sparkling necklace as an accessory. Without a doubt, a London Fog has never been so effortlessly chic.
Andreas’ new show, Here’s to the Ladies: A Songbook of Broadway’s First Ladies is an unusually ambitious collection of show tunes that were first made famous by the likes of Ethel Merman, Mary Martin, Gertrude Lawrence, Julie Andrews, Barbara Cook, Angela Lansbury, Helen Morgan and Barbra Streisand. Although she tackles many signature songs, to her credit Andreas approaches her repertoire with a gentle reverence that pays tribute to the influence that these legendary Broadway performers had on her as a child. It is never indulgent and Andreas doesn’t attempt to claim ownership of the material. The arrangements by musical director Lee Musiker are fresh and interesting, and Andreas manages to bring something new to the table in almost every interpretation. The London Fog she wore acted as a blank canvas for her to prove her mettle as an actress with each song.
Andreas’ voice is a unique instrument. It is a warm, pulsating, throbbing soprano whose bright tones have lost none of their luster since she burst onto the scene in 1976 as Eliza in the 20th anniversary revival of My Fair Lady. If anything, the years have added a burnished, caramel-colored sheen to her sound that is very attractive. The high notes are still there for “Show Me” and “I Could Have Danced All Night,” both from Lady. But what is far more interesting is her middle register which she used to excellent effect in “My Ship” (Lady in the Dark), “Will He Like Me” (She Loves Me), and “They Say It’s Wonderful” (Annie Get Your Gun). Her phrasing and diction are superb, as is her pitch and sense of musical line. Additionally, it is enjoyable to see her have so much fun with her material. Her skills as a comedienne are evident in “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” (Leave It To Me) in which she plays a coy gamine, Cole Porter’s “The Physician” in which she’s a socialite and in “A Wonderful Guy” (South Pacific) where she is the all-American, girl-next-door.
Andreas concluded the evening with “The Music That Makes Me Dance” from Funny Girl and, as an encore, Marguerite’s “Storybook” from The Scarlet Pimpernel, a role that she created on Broadway. In both selections she was fearless, provocative and exciting–everything a cabaret singer should be. Whether in a beaded gown, a trench coat or jeans and a t-shirt, Andreas is a captivating presence to be savored and enjoyed.
Andreas Pays Tribute to Broadway
By Charles Isherwood
Going, going, gone. The Broadway musical as we once knew it may be more or less extinct, but those who grew up under the spell of the species continue to keep its legacy alive wherever and whenever they can.
Christine Andreas is a case in point. In her new show at the Cafe Carlyle, this bountifully talented singer surveys the songs that once made women like her household names, paying loving tribute to icons of the Broadway stage by keeping the magic of their music alive.
She opens the show with a song that seems an odd stretch for her bright lyric soprano, “Some People” from Gypsy. Merman she isn’t, but Andreas’ careful, almost dainty handling of Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics was an amiable change from the all-stops-out treatment the song generally receives. And its tale of a woman whose attraction to showbiz will not be denied served as a nice epigraph for the semi-autobiographical nature of the show.
As she ran through a set of well-known songs associated with femme stage stars, Andreas shared anecdotes of her own path to Broadway, recalling more than once a childhood spent wearing out original cast albums on the record player.
Mary Martin was an early favorite, and Andreas’ smoked-glass voice added a layer of sultriness to a jazz-inflected performance of “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.” Two tunes associated with Gertrude Lawrence were expertly rendered: “My Ship,” sung in a torchy period style that made great use of Andreas’ fine-tuned vibrato, and Cole Porter’s “The Physician,” sung with a veneer of innocence and just a hint of a wink.
Other highlights included were a pair of songs from My Fair Lady sung with an energy and flair that’s hardly surprising, as Andreas played the role of Eliza Doolittle to acclaim on Broadway some years back. Show Boat’s “Bill” may have been the evening’s most exquisite moment, sung with a matter-of-fact ardency. Also entirely lovely was Andreas’ bifurcated rendition of Irving Berlin’s “Moonshine Lullaby,” the first half softly crooned, the second polished and brassy.
Her Encore was Frank Wildhorn’s “Storybook,” a cabaret favorite to which Andreas has a special claim, as she introduced it on Broadway. For the record, hers is the liveliest and loveliest version these ears have heard. The song held its own among the evening’s repertoire, a tribute to Andreas’ gifts.
Andreas Pays Tribute to Broadway
From Theatre Reviews Limited
By David Roberts
Paying tribute to “the ladies who led [her] to the stage,” two-time Tony Award nominee Christine Andreas has returned to the Café Carlyle with “Here’s to the Ladies,” her tribute to the legendary leading ladies of Broadway. With fourteen songs and intelligent, witty patter from Ms. Andreas, this show should be at the top of any cabaret afficionado’s “must see” list.
There are many words one could use to describe Christine Andreas. Certainly she is talented and has a wonderful voice with a distinctive tremolo which is completely under her control. Clearly she knows how to sell any song with unique styling and appropriate interpretation. Many vocalists can give a song a “one of a kind” interpretation; however, all too often the result has little or nothing to do with the lyric being sung. In the case of Christine Andreas, the interpretation always has integrity and the styling is always singular.
The non-technical word that would depict Christine Andreas is “classy.” Whether she is honoring Mary Martin with her wonderful rendition of “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” (Cole Porter) or reminding the audience of the important contribution to musical theatre made by Helen Morgan (1900-1941), Ms. Andreas does what she does with impeccable taste and class. The way she sings, the way she speaks, that way she moves sets her apart as a performer with excellent credentials, impeccable instincts, and unrivaled class.
Christine Andreas’ respect for Julie Andrews is daunting and it is a joy to listen to her sing “Show Me” and “I Could Have Danced All Night” (Frederick Loewe/Alan Jay Lerner). Other highlights of Ms. Andreas’ Carlyle show are two wonderful songs from Jerry Herman’s “Mame” “My Best Beau” and “If He Walked Into My Life” which she delivers with delicious diction and timbre. What a beautiful tribute to Angela Lansbury and composer Jerry Herman! Ethel Merman and even
Barbara Streisand (too often maligned by her contemporaries) are appropriately remembered with Irving Berlin’s “Moonshine Lullaby” and Jule Styne and Bob Merrill’s “The Music That Makes Me Dance” from Funny Girl.
For this reviewer the trademarks of a true vocal artist are integrity and honesty (they are different). Christine Andreas exemplifies both and that is no more apparent than in her encore song “Storybook” (Nan Knighton, Frank Wildhorn), the song which she gave breath and life to as Marguerite in The Scarlet Pimpernel. The Café Carlyle is firmly rooted on 76th Street; however, listening to Ms. Andreas sing this signature song, one would imagine the room turning in euphoric circles of unabashed joy. Christine Andreas and the Café Carlyle: perfect together.
Here’s to the Ladies – The Pheasantry, London
By Jeremy Chapman
Star rating: five stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
If the divine Christine Andreas felt the pressure of being called “one of the greatest singers in the world, what she can’t do with a song isn’t worth doing” in Ruth Leon’s introduction, it didn’t show in a sensational 90-minute set at The Pheasantry.
But where was the audience for the New York songstress’ return, after missing last year, to the Chelsea cabaret room? The place was less than half-full for the opening night of her three-day residency, with composer-husband Martin Silvestri brilliantly accompanying her on piano, and doing his best Maurice Chevalier impersonation in their droll duet from Gigi, ‘I Remember It Well’.
Performers of her calibre don’t pop into The Pheasantry every week, or even every 30 weeks, but those who were there in a tragic and difficult week for Londoners saw an artist very much still at the peak of her craft.
It is 41 years since she was Eliza Doolittle in the Broadway revival of My Fair Lady, but you would never have guessed.
The beauty of her strong, romantic, throbbing soprano matched that of her face, her diction and use of hands and arms were exquisite, and she looked trimmer and more playfully kittenish than ever, especially when flirting with us atop the piano. Who says you can’t be sexy at 65?
Here’s to the Ladies – the CD of the same name was recorded with a 55-piece orchestra in London in 2002 – honoured those Broadway legends who had most influenced her career, from Mary Martin, Ethel Merman, Gertrude Lawrence and Angela Lansbury to Julie Andrews (from whom she took over in My Fair Lady), Barbara Cook, Streisand, Helen Morgan and Glynis Johns.
Merman, celebrated for “not being as pink as a nursery”, was the cue for ‘Moonshine Lullaby’ from Annie Get Your Gun, and she admitted before tackling ‘Send in the Clowns’ that Johns, who created the role of Desiree Armfeldt for A Little Night Music on Broadway, was the only artist out of all those named above that she had actually seen perform.
The second of eight children born to Italian-Irish parents, she introduced each of her ladies with her own starstruck anecdote about the records she discovered them on, saying of Streisand that she left such an indelible mark on her songs that it wasn’t the cleverest thing for anyone else to take them on.
Then immediately ignored her own advice by launching into ‘The Music That Makes Me Dance’ from Funny Girl. Talking of funny, she can do comedienne as well, not just with ‘I Remember It Well’ but also ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’, the Cole Porter classic first sung by Mary Martin in the 1938 musical Leave It To Me!
Andreas was bound to feature ‘Storybook’, the best-known number from The Scarlet Pimpernel, the Frank Wildhorn/Nan Knighton musical in which she starred on Broadway in 1997, and a personal favourite of mine, as was ‘Bill’, written by PG Wodehouse and Jerome Kern 100 years ago for Oh, Lady! Lady!! but not used at the time because it was regarded as too melancholy for the storyline.
Oscar Hammerstein revised Wodehouse’s lyrics for a nightclub scene in Show Boat ten years later and turned them into a show-stopping hit for real-life nightclub singer Helen Morgan.
It was such a shame that her only appearance in a West End musical at the Aldwych the previous year, in The Fields of Ambrosia, playing the wonderfully-named Gretchen Herzallerliebst, flopped and left such a sour taste, especially as Silvestri wrote the music (and there’s a man who knows what a good tune sounds like).
It lasted only 23 performances with the Telegraph critic heartlessly saying it “has a number of moments where it seems tone-deaf to its own ridiculousness”. But musicals flop all the time and they are both very much still here, with a wonderfully cosy rapport adding immeasurably to the intimacy of her elegant five-star set, and looking ahead to next month when their new Piaf show opens in New York.
To give us a taster, the glorious ‘Hymne a L’Amour’ (you may know it better as ‘If You Love Me, Really Love Me’) brought a tear to the eye, a magical ending to a magical evening of pure delight.