BWW Reviews: ERIC COMSTOCK & BARBARA FASANO Open Beguiling New Show at the Metropolitan Room
Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano are in a really good mood. The infectious buoyancy of their new show at the Metropolitan Room, Shoulder Season (Don't ask me what the title means. Despite explanation, I haven't a clue.), will erase world news, ease arthritis, and make love seem possible again. Well, maybe not all that. Its warm, cheerful, sometimes exuberant musicality is nonetheless recommended for whatever ails you.
On "Summer Is A-Comin' In" (Alec Wilder/Marshall Barer) Fasano sings skylarking with anticipation. Explanation follows. She's "Incurably Romantic" (James Van Heusen/Sammy Cahn/Johnny Burke): Each time a lovebird sings/I have no defenses/My heart is off on wings/Along with my senses . . . Comstock concurs "It Could Happen to You" (same authors): All I did was wonder how your arms would be/And it happened to me . . . Really, who can resist them? Even piano flourishes sway.
Comstock's "If Love is Good to Me" (Redd Evens/Fred Spielman) brims with nuanced, reflective shading. It's wholeheartedly invested; sung, in this version, as if by a man hoping against hope. "Ribbons Down My Back" (Jerry Herman from Hello Dolly) signifies summer to Fasano. Performed slowly with deep yearning, the song eschews its original, brighter interpretation for the expression of a woman, not a girl. Sean Smith's bowed bass creates frisson. There's a new maturity to this show. Lyrics seem to come from deeper experience.
The tandem "Let's Go" (Ira Levin/Milton Shafer from Drat the Cat!) and "Island Down in The West Indies" (Vernon Duke/Ira Gershwin) palpably tickle. Fasano sinuously moves with the groove. Comstock's playful arpeggios are visible from hands up as his shoulders turn and he lifts very slightly of the bench. Inflection is amusing, not corny. A very cute number eliciting grins all around. Fasano's rendition of "The Eagle and Me" (Harold Arlen/E.Y. (Yip) Harburg from Bloomer Girl) carries effervescence further. Her nose crinkles, arms extend as if compelled. She's a kite. The vocal soars without growing too big.
Two extremely original duet arrangements shine: "Blues Skies" (Irving Berlin) arrives like a full painting instead of a broad stroke impression--there are birds on the wing, grass bending to the breeze, lacey floral pods landing on and sailing a still lake. Familiar bounce becomes luxuriating. Unexpectedly changed octaves enhance. "April Come She Will" (Paul Simon) takes on the timelessness of a folk song passed down through generations. It's haunting, resonant. One imagines a mandolin.
Comstock's "I Thought About You" and Fasano's "But Beautiful" (James Van Heusen/ Johnny Mercer/Johnny Burke) create another sweet spot. Material is well paired, not cliché. He makes the song earnestly conversational, not slick and breezy as it's often performed. Her silky vocal also rises from engagement. I'd never let you go, she sings closing her eyes and nodding to herself in confirmation. As Comstock embraces a musical passage, Fasano lowers her chin turning slightly toward her husband, eyes lowered with pleasure. "Sleep Warm" (Lew Spence, Alan & Marilyn Bergman) is as loving as it gets. Sigh.
A bit of swing, a poem by Yip Harburg, and some wry personal comments make the show fluid and chummy. Jim Lowe's amusing "The Hamptons": There's a little bit of Heaven on Route 27 wraps it up. Long Island-born Fasano imbues her vocal with a slight nasal quality. She and Comstock have invited us to a backyard shindig. Together we watch the sun go down. The company is swell.
Photos by Stephen Sorokoff