By MARILYN LESTER****A catalog full of Cole Porter titles could easily define the magic spun by T. Oliver Reid in his turn at the newly established and utterly charming Beach Cafe cabaret. Try “Easy to Love,” “C’est Magnifique,” “You’re Sensational” or “You’re the Top” to name a few. Such allure happens when a double celebration of singer, songs, and ambience come together in a perfect musical storm. Entering on a bit of whimsy, Reid sang, to the tune of the 1970s perfume jingle that brought Bobby Short to national fame, a riff on “Charlie,” moving smoothly to “I’m Throwing a Ball Tonight” to a mellow and wistful “Begin the Beguine,” and thence to “I Get a Kick Out of You,” twisting it, turning it, playing with it and generally making it known a good time lay ahead. Reid has grown as a cabaret performer in every way – confidence, ease, vocal quality, and storytelling ability, all of which were in top form in Bobby and Cole: The Singer and the Songs.
Like many singers of his generation, Bobby Short, despite his elegance and sophistication and position as the most preeminent cabaret performer of his time, referred to himself as a saloon singer. It’s an ethos that underpinned Short’s unique style – a relaxed intensity with a rapid vibrato, and never-fail intimacy. Short knew how to connect with an audience in the most meaningful and significant ways. Many of these attributes are shared by Reid who channels his inner Short, avoiding the pitfall of mimicry. These qualities were spotted some years ago by Stephen Holden of The New York Times, who wrote of Reid’s stylistic similarities to Short. Of course, Bobby Short both sang and played the piano. To complete the entire Short persona, music director Yasuhiko Fukuoka also achieved the feat of channeling the Short style – a classically-based light touch with a keen lyrical appreciation. Fukuoka’s arrangements were the top, and much in keeping with Reid’s ability to interpret Short’s melodic phrasing.
Memories of Short especially came to mind with “Isn’t It Romantic?” (Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart), sung with a sincere ardency that was very much of the moment. As with this number, many of the tempos of the set list were in a mellow, and sometimes reflective mood, such as “Night and Day” and “The Nearness of You.” (Hoagy Carmichael/Ned Washington). Straying a bit farther from the Porter canon, Reid paid homage to Short favorites, Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, with “Something to Live For,” with phrasing that would surely have pleased “Strays” no end. “Satin Doll” (with lyric by Johnny Mercer) contained a clever couple of riffs from the theme to I Dream of Jeannie, the TV show starring that satin doll, Barbara Eden. Reid’s rendition of “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good” was a heartbreaker. Bobby Short was a connoisseur of the American Songbook. He loved it all and he especially loved finding and singing under-exposed material. One such number, “Sand in My Shoes” (Victor Schertzinger/ Frank Loesser), Reid delivered with a subtle comic edge, dancing with a lady-friend picked from the audience. Another signature Short tune, “Do I Love You?” was done in a perky Short-ish uptempo.
Before ending the evening, Reid introduced his guest performer, the singing piano man Eric Yves Garcia, whose verbal and written eloquence (he is also a writer ) carries over to his artistry at the keys. With appropriate homage to both Porter and Short, Garcia sang alternate lyrics to “Why Shouldn’t I?” followed by an enthusiastic, uptempo “At Long Last Love.” Reid’s closer was a song “Cole Porter might have written,” one that Short was the first to perform outside its Broadway show, Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns,” followed by an equally affecting “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” as a love song to the audience. If hearty applause is any indication, the sentiment was returned manyfold.
The Beach Cafe presents entertainment Thursdays through Sundays at 9:15 PM. Next Thursday through Sunday, curator Mark Nadler presents Heather Mac Rae. Cover Charge– with advance reservations $20 ($30 without reservations ahead); Bar seating is limited, but less expensive, and can be reserved in advance for a discount, too. $20 food/drink minimum per person. For reservations, call 212-988-7299 or see www.TheBeachCafe.com
Editor’s Note: Mr. Reid is also our “NiteLife Person of the Week,” so there’s more about him there (see linked article or in the left column down a ways on the home page).