I Remember Him Well - The Songs of Alan Jay Lerner
Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors
"I Remember Him Well - The Songs of Alan Jay Lerner" at Birdland was a premier cabaret show presented by an authoritative music man. Celebrating the lyrics of Alan Jay Lerner, a romantic with a fascination for the occult, as in Broadway's On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, Steve Ross has gleaned a wealth of material to express the complex lyricist.
From a lineup of theater classics including On A Clear Day (with composer Burton Lane), Ross proved his high standing in the American songbook lexicon with urbane panache, musical pianissimo, and an expressive voice that perked brightly with "Hurry, It's Lovely Down Here" ("Climb up geranium, it can’t be fun subterran-ium"). With impeccable diction and stress, he articulated the multiple verses of "Come Back to Me" ("Let your tub overflow/ If a date waits below/Let him wait for Godot").
The nuances are evident and greeting Birdland's packed audience, he opened the show with visions from "You're All the World To Me" from Royal Wedding with Burton Lane. ("You're Lake Como when dawn is aglow/ You're Sun Valley right after a snow.")
Besides the familiar songbooks, Ross revived less well-known songs like "I Never Met a Rose" (with Loewe, The Little Prince) and reminded us of "I Talk to the Trees" (Loewe, Paint Your Wagon). Among the loveliest songs is "One More Walk Around the Garden" (Carmelita with Lane) and a nostalgic "Heather On the Hill" (Paint Your Wagon).
Lerner's lyrics are often lively with sharp wit yet they can reflect lost love and meditation, like the thoughtful rendition of “If Ever I Would Leave You” (from Camelot with Loewe). From On A Clear Day, Ross revealed Lerner's lonely side, "What Did I Have (I Don't Have Now?)," which includes another irresistible line, "What would I give if my old know-how still knew how?"
"I've Been Married," Lerner admitted in an acerbic song he wrote with Gerard Kenny for an un-produced play, My Man Godfrey. Who would know better than Lerner who was on his eighth marriage when he wrote the song? Ross approached the work perceptively and delivered it articulately with astute timing.
Alan Jay Lerner was born into the Lerner family, owners of a popular women's clothing store chain. He had a privileged education and a strong love for musical theatre that led him into writing lyrics and librettos. Besides Lane, Lerner collaborated with Kurt Weill, Andre Previn, Leonard Bernstein but he reached theater super-stardom with Frederick Loewe with shows like Gigi, Camelot and the long-running, My Fair Lady. With soprano Shana Farr joining Steve later in the show, My Fair Lady was a bloomin' delight.
Ross ended with "It's Almost Like Being In Love," (Brigadoon with Loewe) singing out, "All the music of life seems to be/Like a bell that is ringing for me." A truly "loverly" show for everyone who loves good music.
Steve Ross: "I Remember Him Well - The Songs of Alan Jay Lerner"
315 W 44th St, NYC
January 22, 2018
Piano and Vocals: Steve Ross. Guest Shana Farr.
Running time: One hour.
Review by Elizabeth Ahlfors