Monday, June 22, 2015

The Chantouze

Plucking petals. 12 PM. Photo: JH.
Monday, June 22, 2015. Yesterday was the Summer Solstice and the longest day of the year. It was a beautiful sunny day, preceded by two and a half, cloudy, sometimes rainy days with temperatures in the lovely sixties. Yesterday brought humidity, the kind where the temperature is 86 and the Real Feel is 98. First day of Summer. Time to relax with a cool drink. And be thankful for the long, peaceful day with Sun.

Last Thursday night I went over to 54 Below on West 54th between 7th and 8th, where Yanna Avis was performing her program of cabaret. Yanna, who is French, was married for a long time to Warren Avis, the rent-a-car tycoon. I can’t remember if we first met in Los Angeles or here in New York, but we have a lot of mutual good friends and have known each other a long time.
Yanna on stage at 54 Below.
Yanna had been an actress before she married Warren, but she put that away to have time to spend with her husband. Warren died at the ripe old age of 92 eight years ago this last April. It was about that time that Yanna began to focus once again on her love of performing. I call her The Chantouze.

I’d never been to 54 Below before. Because of that, and because I’d never been in the cellar of Studio 54 in the old days (where all the wild druggy stuff allegedly happened), so I had only an idea of what it looked like. A cellar below a nightclub? Dark, grubby, damp, dank? I doubt it looked like it looks now: it’s a beautiful room for cabaret. I don’t know what you’d call the interior design style but it’s perfect for a first class cabaret. And there’s not a bad seat in the house, plus there’s enough space that you’re not packed in, and with a stage adequate enough to hold four or five musicians, a piano and the performer. The service is excellent, quick and attentive.
The Chantouze performs ...
Yanna’s show went on at 9:30. She opened with a French song called “Kabaret” – not the Kander and Ebb “Cabaret”, followed  by “Make Some Magic,” a song she discovered on an old Blossom Dearie album “Blossom’s Planet”. This was followed by “Chez Moi” by a French composer Paul Misraki. The she brought on the Porter – Cole Porter’sYou Do Something To Me ... Something that simply mystifies ... me ...” which she turned medley with Frank Loesser’s “You Got That Look” which was sung by Marlene Dietrich in “Destry Rides Again.”  Then “Johnny” (written by Friedrich Hollander for Marlene also); then Porter’s“C’est Magnifique” in medley with “C’est Si Bon,” the song that made Eartha Kitt famous; followed by “Jolie Mome,” “Get Away Young Man” (also a Dietrich song from “Rancho Notorious”), then Ira Gershwin’s “Aren’t You Kinda Glad We Did” written for an unused tune of brother George’s two years after his early death. Gershwin was followed by “Quien Sera,” a Mexican song by Pablo Beltrean Ruiz; then “Besame Mucho,” “When the World Was Young,” Mein Lieber Herr,” “Easy Come, Easy Go,” and that was it.
Then the resounding applause from the crowd and Yanna returned with “Padam-Padam” made famous by Piaf. More applause.

It zipped by. The lady means business. It’s about a seventy-five minute show but it seemed like ten or fifteen. Yanna’s doing an encore tonight at 54 Below.
After the show: Looking south on Broadway from 54th Street. 10:45 PM.