BWW Reviews: Texas Treasure Holland Vavra Flys Audiences to the Moon
Last December, Texas treasure Holland Vavra made her 54 Below debut in Cuz We're F#cking Talented, a concert where a handful of artists showed off their skills. Last night, she made a special trip from Houston, where she is about to open Ted Swindley's Honky Tonk Angels at Stages Repertory Theatre, to premiere her tribute to Frank Sinatra, Holland at the Sands: My Blue Eyed Sinatra. With her own brand of lovable, quirky humor and her golden instrument, Vavra made her solo cabaret debut a delightful spectacle.
Taking the stage in a black romper, impossibly high stilettos, and bouncy blonde curls, Vavra kicked off the show with a swinging rendition of "Nice 'n' Easy" (Alan Bergman, Marilyn Keith, Lew Spence). She instantly showed the New York audience that her capable soprano instrument was set to impress. Jared Zirilli, who worked opposite Vavra in TUTS Underground's production of LMNOP, joined her for a brassy version of "Come Fly with Me" (Jimmy Van Heusen, Sammy Cahn). The duo paired well with each other, belting with cheerful ease. With a ton of heart and a tinge of Texas twang, Vavra belted out "Nothing but the Best" (Johnny Rotella).
Growing up on Sinatra records, Vavra had a fondness for his live recording of a certain hit showtune. She serenaded the audience with a peppy and energetic rendition of his take on "Get Me to the Church on Time" (Alan Jay Lerner, Frederick Loewe). Accompanying her on piano, former Houstonian Steven Jamail's vigorous and bombastic piano solo earned thunderous applause and cheers as well. For "You Make Me Feel So Young" (Mack Gordon, Josef Myrow) Houston born and raised talent Tyce Green sang with Vavra. The witty repartee between the two showcased their winning chemistry and added zealous charm to the performance. Taking things down a notch, Vavra showcased the soft side of her voice with "All My Tomorrows" (Sammy Cahn, Jimmy Van Heusen), bringing sparkling life to Nancy Sinatra's favorite of her father's ditties.
Broadway star and former college roommate of Vavra's Katie Rose Clarke joined her for a ardently jovial spin on "Ring-A-Ding-Ding" (Sammy Cahn, Jimmy Van Heusen). Yet, the signature performance of the evening was Vavra's heartfelt and perfectly intoned rendition of "Come Rain or Come Shine" (Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer). For this tune, she unleased every ounce of emotionality and brought the house down with the sumptuously soulful jazz ballad. She chased the song with a lushly sung, torch ballad rendition of "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)" (Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer).
Ending the show on a high note, Vavra brought Anneliese van der Pol on the stage to belt "That's Life" (Kelly Gordon, Dean Kay). With this spunky number, the two chanteuses tore the roof off 54 Below, belting with every captivating ounce of might and soul they could muster. Then, to end the evening Vavra sang a samba-inspired rendition of "Fly Me to the Moon" (Bart Howard) without knowing she had already sent the audience there by the end of the third song in her set.