When Steve Ross renders a theater song by Stephen Sondheim, it's like hearing it for the first time.
The veteran saloon singer, who has been dubbed the crown prince of cabaret, has opened the season at the hallowed Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel for a limited run through Sept. 15th. A boldly assured pianist with a light, reedy and brittle voice, Ross brings a fresh and insightful new appreciation to Broadway's foremost living composer-lyricist.
The rich expansive program boasts twenty provocative and brightly clever songs that define Sondheim's extraordinary gift for composition. Ross gives a smoothly functional, yet adventurous performance, adding a brief, insightful and witty narrative.
The literature of the Broadway musical can boast no riches more worthy than Being Alive from Company, and Pretty Women from Sweeney Todd and With So Little To Be Sure Of from Anyone Can Whistle. Ross reveals the reverence and the rapture.
From Follies, Sondheim's radiant and irreverent portrait of aging showgirls, Ross summoned the heartbreak of Losing My Mind , the sweet whimsy of Broadway Baby and the joie de vivre of Ah, Paris. And it is doubtful one can find any waltzing poignancy as lovely as One More Kiss.
Skirting some of the composer's more obvious choices, Ross mines the Sondheim legacy, unearthing a few rare gems. There is the plaintive I Must Be Dreaming from All That Glitters Sondheim's experimental college composition that offered an early promise of sound harmonic structure and a sweet ardent flavor. Another distinctive lost treasure is Sand .The song comes from a 1992 unproduced film project, Singing Out Loud.
Following an obvious, but sweetly tempered Send in the Clowns, Ross drafted A Moment with You from Sondheim's first professional musical effort, Saturday Night. The song of sweet dancing simplicity, penned when the composer was twenty-four, later surfaced in the collective revue, Marry Me a Little. The Ross charm governed the repertoire right up to the final glorious note.
Opening night found veteran doyenne Julie Wilson on hand with divas KT Sullivan, Barbara Rosene and the unsinkable Tammy Grimes along with cabaret impresario Donald Smith, who will helm the 18th anniversary of his four day Cabaret Convention at Lincoln Center on Nov. 5.