Brochu and Ross: Just a Couple of Vaudevillians

Cabaret review

Steve Ross (left) and Jim Brochu. Photo by Maryann Lopinto
Steve Ross (left) and Jim Brochu. Photo by Maryann Lopinto
Two grand guys step away from the grand piano. Talented pals Steve Ross (left) and Jim Brochu. Photo by Maryann Lopinto
Review by Bart Greenberg ~

Jim Brochu and Steve Ross celebrated their nearly 50-year friendship Thursday evening, May 26, at the Laurie Beechman Theatre with their show Two Guys and a Grand. Confessing early on that they were “just a couple of vaudevillians,” they proved it with a mix of wisecracks, loving insults, old stories and old songs (some standards, some very obscure).

Brochu and Ross are certainly friends, but they are also certainly a strange match-up on stage: the urbane, stylish and continental Ross (wearing Noel Coward’s dress jacket for this performance) and the brash, loud, utterly American Brochu (wearing something from the Fatty Arbuckle collection). This could be a recipe for disaster, but instead they celebrated their differences with a medley originally arranged for a similarly diverse duo: Ethel Merman and Fred Astaire.

Old stories concentrated on their youthful romance with the seedier side of New York City in the ’70s (their favorite spot was a long-gone club called The Painted Pony) where Ross played the piano and Brochu and his buddies (including songwriter Stan Freeman who figured into the latter part of the concert) performed melodies by Cole Porter, Jule Styne and Noel Coward. Brochu also resurrected his audition piece from those early days when Ross first played for him– a specialty number by Abe Burrows entitled “I’ll Bet You’re Sorry Now, Tokyo Rose,” which he admitted never won him a single job.

The duo took the chance of leading a sing-along with the packed house to the Noel Coward gem, “Saturday Night at the Rose and Crown”. Now, sing-alongs can be dismal, but when the audience is filled with such performers as Lee Roy Reams, Karen Akers, Joan Copeland, Eric Comstock, Mark Nadler and Walter Willison, the choral effect is lovely indeed.

Solo numbers included some piano pyrotechnics from Ross on “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” and his very moving rendition of “Old Friend,” while Brochu got to show off his verbal dexterity with “The Late, Late Show.” Together, they presented a delicately phrased “Class,” treating the vulgarity of the lyrics as if they were the most sophisticated bon mots.

The last several selections were the work of their good friend Stan Freeman from his two Broadway shows –—- the title number from  I Had a Ball, and two comic delights from Lovely Ladies, Kind Gentlemen, co-written with Franklin Underwood, who was in attendance.  These last two also allowed Brochu to pay tribute to his mentor David Burns who introduced them. 

The audience made it clear that they couldn’t wait for these two vaudevillians to reunite for another evening as delightful as this one.