“Winter Rhythms: Sinatra at the Movies” brings first-class cabaret to Urban Stages

By Lucy Komisar

Bill Zeffiro and Karen Oberlin, photo Maryann Lopinto.

There was Karen Oberlin, a favorite, and Cary Hoffman, who has joined my list of favorites. Some well-known, others who ought to be, they appeared –15 of them – at a performance of Urban Stages‘ “Winter Rhythms,” among the best deals around for cabaret and jazz lovers. The theme was Sinatra at the Movies.

It was the fifth year of a benefit to support Urban Stages‘ outreach to schools, libraries and seniors.

Every one of the 12 nights in the series was different, with mine being “Sinatra at the Movies.” The songs were presented in the chronological order of his films and showed how he helped establish the great American song book. Bill Zeffiro was at the piano, and Will Friedwald served as a not-too-intrusive MC.

Molly Pope.

Molly Pope sang “The Man with the Golden Arm” in a rich, luscious voice that was a little menacing. The piece was written for the movie, but never used.

Always a story teller, Oberlin, in her fine style featured “Some Other Time,” by Sammy Cahn and Julie Styne.

Cary Hoffman, who has made a career out of singing Sinatra, was terrific in a rendition of the Harold Adamson and Jimmy McHugh standard, “I Couldn‘t Sleep a Wink Last Night.”

A highlight was the elegant opera quality soprano of Naya Rodriguez-Castinado in “What Makes the Sunset,” another by Cahn and Styne. She joined Nicholas King in “La Ci Darem” from Mozart‘s “Don Giovanni,” which it turns out was sung by Sinatra in “It Happened in Brooklyn.”

Margi Gianquinto, photo Maryann Lopinto.

That film also gave Margi Gianquinto a chance to do a good jazzy version of “It‘s the Same Old Dream.” Listen to her about 3:15 minutes into the La Ci Darem video. Hilary Gardner‘s “The Brooklyn Bridge” was smart and sophisticated. Makes one want to see the old movie! You can hear her after Gianquinto at 6:45.

Lianne Marie Dobbs’ “You‘re Awful” from “On the Town” (Betty Comden, Adolf Green and Roger Edens) includes the dialogue leading up to the song, and she plays both Sinatra and Betty Garrett, with great Brooklyn accents. Dobbs is a charmer, with a trilling voice very Hollywood movie of the era. Here’s the original!

As a big fan of Cole Porter, I was happy to hear Eric Yves (“Yip”) Garcia play and sing a jazzy “Farewell Amanda” from “Adams Rib,” with its deliciously rhyming “wonderful night on the veranda.”

Marissa Mulder, photo Maryann Lopinto.

Lauren Fox and “Yip” Garcia teamed up for a fine duo, with excellent acting by Fox, in “She‘s Funny that Way” from “Meet Danny Wilson” – never heard of that film, but the song certainly lived.

I liked the sweet ethereal sound of Marissa Mulder in “You My Love” from “Young at Heart.” And the breathy “Heart of Mine” from “Advise and Consent” performed by Kit Gang.

Everyone got together at the end for “All the Way” from “The Joker is Wild.”

It was a treat to hear this sample of the best cabaret singers who play New York. I‘ll be back next year.

To see a full collection of that evening’s videos, go to Will Friedwald’s website.

Cast singing All the Way, photo Maryann Lopinto.

“Winter Rhythms.” Urban Stages Theater, 259 West 30th Street (bet 7th and 8th Avenues). Hosted and curated by Will Friedwald and Bill Zeffiro; directed by Peter Napolitano; musical director Bill Zeffiro. 212-868-4444. Dec 3-15, 2013. $25; $50 on nights with post-show receptions. 12/28/13.

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