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BWW Review: 2014 MetroStar Winner Kristoffer Lowe Offers a Wowza Musical Exploration Of Composer Harry Warren at Metropolitan Room

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Actor/vocalist Kristoffer Lowe has recently racked up an impressive array of awards, including the Metropolitan Room's 2014 MetroStar, the 2015 Bistro Award for Special Achievement, and the 2015 Male Debut MAC Award for his 2014 show, Waiting For the Light to Shine. Even after such kudos, however, he's been flying somewhat under the radar. His new show, You're Getting to Be a Habit With Me, which opened at the Metropolitan Room Tuesday night (a four-show run was his reward for winning the MetroStar), spotlighted the songs of composer Harry Warren, who was often called "the invisible man." With his stellar performance, Lowe should by all rights achieve his own well-deserved notoriety. The beautifully put together show displays versatile interpretive gifts, emotional translucence, and well-calibrated vocals. Patter is minimal and elucidating. Lowe's Musical Director/pianist Tracy Stark's collaborative arrangements are fresh and well tailored, while the excellent Tom Hubbard on bass and Jonathan Kantor on reeds play to potent effect.

Lowe is illusively nonchalant. Opening with "There Will Never Be Another You," "About A Quarter to Nine," and "If You Feel Like Singing, Sing," we ease into the evening with genial crooning. The aria da capo trio of numbers begins legato, segues from sunny to exhilarating, and ends quiet. He's got us.

"I Take To You" . . . like a fish takes to swimming, like the Irish take to stew . . . draws on theatrical training. There's a rolled "r" when a duchess takes to tea and crumpets, a Scottish accent, a Swiss yodel, and a flirty, southern interjection of "bless your heart." Incredible as it seems, the inflections are so nuanced, not a turn feels out of place or over the top. "You're Getting To Be a Habit With Me" is straw-hat-and-spats charming.

Harry Warren, Lowe tells us, wrote 800 songs, garnered three Academy Awards, and had more call-outs on the hit parade than Irving Berlin with whom he felt actively competitive. The artist's research revealed startling lack of awareness concerning the iconic talent. Lowe certainly knows about Warren now, as does his audience.

Performing a wide variety of material, the vocalist exhibits a gift for variable phrasing, adapting to the intention of each lyric, making every one sound personal. The tango-tempered "Too Many Tears" spits sharp sentiments which themselves dip, whip, whirl, and bend with Kantor's oboe a complicit partner. Emotional resonance is palpable with the southern-sounding "Me and The Blues" during which bruised, unfussy, roadhouse lyrics mine the depths. "Remember My Forgotten Man" you put a rifle in his hand is desolate torch. Back from the war, a shattered soldier is unable to take care of his mate. Lowe creates a back of throat sob that wisely never fully emerges into an audible cry. His arms rarely move, focus is crystalline, restraint transfixing.

Another war song, 1928's "Nagasaki" (Back in Nagasaki/Where the fellers chew tobaccy/And the women wicky wacky/Woo) lands on the opposite shore. Lowe steps and gestures a la vaudeville, eyebrows raised, with just the right wah-wah tone. His voice seems slightly nasal here, almost as if a mute were employed. Enunciation is pristine, breath control skilled. The number is infectiously gleeful.

Terrific tandem arrangements include "We're In the Money"/ "With Plenty of Money and You," in which Lowe humorously pauses after plenty of money as if and you were an afterthought and just a little filthy lucre sounds lascivious. Pace ratchets up from theater tap-line to frenzied and back and includes acapella passages to great dramatic effect. And the organic, finger snapping "Lullaby of Broadway"/"42nd Street," in which Hubbard provides adroit, rhythmic backbone, Stark plays light and saucy, and Kantor hand paints accents. Lowe conjures the girls, a line of stage door Johnnies, and a Great White Way we haven't seen illuminated since black and white movies. Its exuberant ending never loses sizzle.

Kristoffer Lowe's vocals have never been better. Song choices are often revelatory. Musicianship is highly accomplished. The show is well constructed and paced by Director Lennie Watts. Lowe thanks Steve Ross for his counsel, reminding us of the value of respected peers and mentors. You're Getting to Be a Habit With Me is more than entertaining--it's memorable.

Krisoffer Lowe returns to the Metropolitan Room with Your Getting to Be a Habit With Me: The Songs of Harry Warren on October 23 (9:30 pm) and November 15 and December 29 (both at 7 pm). For reservations, go to: www.metropolitanroom.com

Photos by Lou Montesano/Still Rock Photography


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