I Won’t Dance – Steve Ross Plays and Sings Fred Astaire
The Cabaret at Germano’s, Baltimore, MD, April 10, 2016
Reviewed by Michael Miyazaki for Cabaret Scenes
Somehow, the cumulative effect of watching Steve Ross, called an “American Cabaret Treasure,” sing classic material from the American Popular Songbook introduced by the dapper Fred Astaire is a perfect storm of cabaret sophistication.
Although Ross opened with a medley of songs about dancing, including “I Want to Be a Dancin’ Man” and “I Won’t Dance,” he stressed Astaire’s talent for giving rhythm and romance a voice in his vocal performances. Ross hit the expected biographical points for Astaire with illustrative songs—his early stage success with sister Adele (“Fascinating Rhythm”/”Oh, Lady Be Good!”), his success in the movies (“My Shining Hour,” a standout), and his latter television and recording work (“City of the Angels”—which Astaire wrote with Tommy Wolf— a delightful discovery).
As a singer/pianist, Ross has musical flexibility that allows him to pivot effortlessly when doing intricate medleys and to perfectly punctuate comic material. Although most notable for a soigné wit, Ross can also provide tremendous depth of feeling in a ballad like Porter’s “After You, Who?”—performing its brutal honesty. Most important, though, he is an incredibly genial host who forges a strong connection with his audience. This is an especially notable feat when one considers the fact that he is blocked behind a piano for most of his show.