Does This Song Make Me Look Fat?
Café Carlyle, NYC, January 31, 2017
Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors for Cabaret Scenes
The Café Carlyle finds the fashion world a good fit with Isaac Mizrahi on stage. Does This Song Make Me Look Fat? shows the cabaret world that the New York designer is ready for intimate cabaret elegance. He lost a few pounds, enough to fit into his new Saville Row suit, brought in a blue-chip jazz quintet, and polished up some well-chosen pop songs. He was set to follow in the Carlyle footsteps of Bobby Short, Eartha Kitt and Elaine Stritch.
Well, maybe not quite in their footsteps, but Mizrahi has the stuff for an entertaining cabaret show. He gives the impression of a show-off who was once a precocious kid singing Streisand songs, which he was. He loves the camaraderie between performer and audience, relating well and delivering witty anecdotes that feel like they’ve been waiting for years to be shared. He loves it all.
Mizrahi has not just spent these past 30 years in the cutting room. He has practiced with pianist and musical director Ben Waltzer for 18 years. He has performed in venues like Joe’s Pub and the Laurie Beechman Theatre. He appears on Project Runway: All-Stars, had a TV talk show and is writing a memoir.
The singing is certainly acceptable, with strength and control, though also with a few flat spots. After “Yes” by John Kander and Fred Ebb, he delivered a bluesy “Lotus Blossom” (Sam Coslow/Arthur Johnston), a 1934 song originally called “Sweet Marijuana.” It featured a riff by trumpet player Benny Benack III and his wa-wa mute. The eclectic song list also included one of Bob Dorough’s songs that Blossom Dearie liked to sing, “Figure Eight,” a mathematics lesson by eights. Although there was a microphone problem during “Baubles, Bangles and Beads” (by Robert Wright and George Forrest, based on Alexander Borodin, from Kismet), Mizrahi was not thrown and sang sans mic and a cappella until the sound engineer fixed the situation. The second time around, the beat picked up from the original 3/4 waltz tempo, changing to a four-beat. For Eartha Kitt, he sang “C’est si bon” (Henri Betti and Andre Hornez) in French, then English (lyrics: Jerry Seelen). Most notable was Kander and Fred Ebb’s “A Quiet Thing,” dedicated to his husband, who was in the room.
Mizrahi’s comic timing is on target. Before he went into Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s “Your Song,” he quipped to Waltzer at the piano, “You would play the song better if you were gay.” Bits of gossipy dish, much of it about himself, his weight, his problems with Ambien, toe fungus, and celebrities like Faye Dunaway wove through the show, not really leading in or out of songs. The feeling of the hour was casual, like a delicious soirée with all the most fascinating people.
The high point was a swag bag with re-gifts, given to him at one gala or another. He doesn’t like to throw anything out, so everything was up for grabs—a bottle of sparkling Kosher wine, gold nail stickers, a glowing mini-Christmas tree and a phone charger. Everything went.
Musical Director Waltzer is joined by Neal Miner on bass, Stefan Schatz on percussion, Joe Strasser on drums and Benny Benack III on trumpet, closed the show joining Mizrahi and the audience singing the theme song from the late Mary Tyler Moore’s long-running sit com, “Love Is All Around” by Sonny Curtis— perfect for Isaac Mizrahi’s giant step into the world of cabaret.
The run ends on February 11.