By ROB LESTER****”What a swell party this is!” Cabaret crooner Jeff Harnar is at The Beach Cafe, the restaurant/bar that’s just added music to its menu. And in a big way, with the cream of the cafe society of modern times—a cornucopia of Cole Porter polish at 9:15 on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. The venue is on the corner of Second Avenue and East 70th Street, so the Q subway’s newly extended line to the Upper East Side takes you right there. The cover charge and minimum are newsworthy in a good way, too–especially for big-name, proven entertainers in a smallish venue are straight out of the pages of Ripley’s Believe It or Not. And, the cover charge is even cheaper if you reserve ahead of time or sit at one of the seats at the bar (not many of those, but they can be reserved in advance, too).
To be specific, a table seat’s cover charge is $20 per person in advance ($30 at the door). If you want one of those seats at the bar, it’s just a $10 cover if you reserve ahead of time ($15 at the door). The minimum is $20 per show, which can apply to food and/or drink.
Jeff Harnar has always had a special flair for the witty and gorgeous Porter oeuvre (Mr. Nadler informed the opening-night crowd that it seemed right to use the word “oeuvre” on the classy Upper East Side). He’s co-hosted special concerts of Porter songs for the Cabaret Convention and at The Town Hall. At the drop of a hat (possibly KT Sullivan’s), he can whip through all of the many, many choruses and verses of “It’s De-Lovely,” including every twist and turn of fleet melody and tongue-twisting words. And he’s just as crisp and spry with the wordplay in “Can-Can.” And he also has a less-well-known Jimmy Durante specialty in his repertoire, “A Little Skipper from Heaven Above.” Whether a standard or a semi-obscurity, when it comes to getting to the heart or funnybone of a Porter piece, he can do no wrong. Indeed he recorded “You Can Do No Wrong” as his choice Cole Porter choice for a CD I remember getting in the mail in my first year of reviewing albums for the Sound Advice column at www.TalkinBroadway.com back in 2005. I’ve seen him in person many times, before and after. And it’s always been a pleasure. This week, the pleasure is yours, too.
Mark Nadler books the room and booked himself for first run of three Cole Porter nights (with more to come in the post-Jeff Harnar days). It was my pleasure to be there for the first night of live music as he welcomed everyone for the new habit of going to the “Beach” each week for a Porter pow-wow. T. Oliver Reid, Karen Akers, and Stacy Sullivan each will bring a separate three-night show of samples of the great composer-lyricist’s huge output.
See www.thebeachcafe.com for more info, reservations, and the mouth-watering menu.
Artist website: www.jeffharnar.com