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BWW Reviews: Christine Andreas Is Totally Bewitching In Musing On Creative Musical Connections in BEMUSED at 54 Below

Cabaret Review by Stephen Hanks

Even her biggest fans among the opening night crowd were likely befuddled, slightly bothered, and even a tad bewildered when they heard that Christine Andreas' first cabaret show at 54 Below was called Bemused, and not exactly sure what that meant. But they would ultimately end up being thoroughly bewitched by a wonderfully engaging show by this totally entertaining pro. While most current or former Broadway stars who are staging shows at 54 Below are performing what amounts to mini-concerts, the lady who first became a Broadway audience favorite as Eliza Doolittle in the 20th anniversary production of My Fair Lady (and is two-time Tony Award nominee) knows her way around cabaret and developed a charmingly creative conceit for this run (continuing on Jan. 29, Feb. 1, 2 at 8:30 pm and Jan. 30, 31 at 7 pm), which included songs from Broadway, pop, the Great American Songbook, and even Edith Piaf.

Entering in a tight, floor-length red evening gown, the still-ravishing brunette opened jazzy and upbeat with Harold Arlen's "Get Happy" (lyrics Ted Koehler), one of the many songs associated with Judy Garland. Then the audience discovered her intention behind the show title. Andreas' definition of "bemused" (which actually means to be bewildered or confused by a thought or question) separates the syllables as if it had been a compound word and for Andreas it becomes "Be Mused," as in someone who has been so influenced by someone else that he or she becomes the focus and inspiration for that person's creative work. "It's the spark that ignites when the right singer and songwriter collide," she adds. What's difficult to determine in some of the famous musical collaborations she highlights in this show is who exactly was the muser and who was the musee. What's not difficult to determine is that when it comes to being a muse, Christine Andreas must know whereof she speaks. During her many years as a performer, this stunning songbird has no doubt been a muse, either in reality or fantasy, for many men--and likely a fair amount of women.

It's something Christine probably has in common with Astrud Gilberto, who was apparently a muse for three great musicians, her husband Joao, jazz legend Stan Getz, and especially Antonio Carlos Jobim. Astrud was the voice behind Jobim's classic 1964 international hit "The Girl From Ipanema," recorded with Getz and Joao, and Astrud became Jobim's go-to singer. Andreas was bossa nova sultry on a medley of "Ipanama," and Jobim's "Desafinado" and "Wave," which the great Brazilian composer recorded with Frank Sinatra, a connection which became a mutual muse admiration society during the 1960s and '70s. Andreas seamlessly transitioned into the prolific connection between Sinatra and songwriters Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, who wrote countless hits for "Ol' Blue Eyes." She was absolutely lovely on "All My Tomorrows," before making her case for being a retroactive member of The Rat Pack with "Come Fly With Me," "The Tender Trap" and "Come Blow Your Horn."

If you didn't know that Andreas was another great singer who was clearly influenced by Barbra Streisand, you'd figure it out listening to her beautifully envelop the audience with her luscious soprano on the Michel Legrand's wistful "The Summer Knows" (the theme from the film Summer of '42), whose lyricists Marilyn and Alan Bergman have been almost synonymous with Streisand during her career. Christine's Musical Director Don Rebic dazzled here with a lush piano arrangement that was supported by Dick Sarpola's romantic bass. (Please click on page 2 below to continue.)

Andreas soared on Jimmy Webb ballads associated with Richard Harris ("Didn't We") and Glen Campbell ("The Moon is a Harsh Mistress"), produced a sensual vibrato and breathy end phrases to Burt Bacharach/Hal David classics sung by Dionne Warwick ("Alfie" and "What the World Needs Now"), and was alternately operatic and playful on "To Keep My Love Alive," the biting lyric about a serial husband killer that Lorenz Hart (with Richard Rodgers music) wrote for musical theater star of the 1920s-'40s Vivienne Segal in A Connecticut Yankee. "Hart asked Segal to marry him three times," Andreas revealed, "and he was gay." She then launched into an awesomely sexy and sassy rendition of the Rodgers and Hart classic, "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," that Segal introduced in 1940 in the musical Pal Joey. I know the show had a recent revival, but some producer should bring it back for a short run just so Andreas can play Vera Simpson.

Andreas' finale highlighted a female-to-female muse connection, which was one of the most successful in modern musical history--that of Edith Piaf with French songwriter Marguerite Monnot. As she did at this October's Cabaret Convention at Rose Hall at Lincoln Center, Christine compelled the audience into rhythmic clapping with her raucous yet seductive turn on the up-tempo dance hall song, "Milord." The 54 Below crowd had barely finished their first standing ovation when Andreas cleverly slipped in a few bars of Cole Porter's "I Love Paris," before combining power and tenderness on Piaf's classic "La Vie En Rose." After the second standing O, one could only wonder how long it might be before her old fans--and now the new ones--would be coming back for Bemused 2.

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From This Author Stephen Hanks

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