Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano: Shoulder Season

Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano

Shoulder Season

Metropolitan Room, NYC, June 1, 2015

Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors for Cabaret Scenes

Eric-Comstock-Barbara-Fasano-Shoulder-Season-Cabaret-Scenes-Magazine_212Double your pleasure, double your fun with the jazz delight of cabaret’s popular twosome, Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano, saluting that unpredictable, indefinable time of year that travel agents often call Shoulder Season.

There’s no hint of Summer Is a-Comin’ In(Alec Wilder/Marshall Barer) in the Metropolitan Room on this chilly November-ish June opening evening. Comstock and Fasano, however, guarantee a warm, sophisticated approach, delivering the best songs around for stay-cationing in New York or fantasizing about exotic getaways.

The focus is on lyrics, choosing well-crafted songs and delving beneath the surface to present new facets. Songbird Fasano is outgoing and upbeat. Early in the show she introduces herself as “Incurably Romantic” (Jimmy Van Heusen/Sammy Cahn). Comstock—a Grade-A, versatile jazz pianist, singer and musicologist—follows up with a hip, casual “It Could Happen to You,” (Van Heusen/Johnny Burke). This is who they are, not an “act” but two talents delivering songs that define them, and consequently define us.

With light, usually personal patter, Fasano shares a few words to lead smartly into the next song. For example, acknowledging the late Julie Wilson, each shares a personal anecdote that is identifiably “Julie,” before performing two of Julie’s favorite ballads: Comstock with “I Thought About You” (Van Heusen/Johnny Mercer) and Fasano’s “But Beautiful” (Van Heusen/Burke).

Romance heats up with “When In Rome (I Do As the Romans Do),” Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh’s clever play on words and lust.

Raising the ante on lust, Comstock quips that he files “What Are You Afraid Of?

,” a white-hot song (urbane-style) by Robert Wells and Jack Segal, under “Positively Charming – Reptilian.” More head-on romantic is his rendition of “If Love Is Good to Me” by Redd Evans and Fred Spielman. Recalling her teenage days at the beach, Fasano exudes youthful yearning with Jerry Herman’s “Ribbons Down My Back,” dreaming of young love and the electricity it promises.

As is their wont, Fasano slips next to her husband for one of their favorites, “Two for the Road,” by Henry Mancini and Leslie Bricusse. Staying in the wanderlust mode are “Let’s Go” from the short-lived musical Drat! The Cat! (Ira Levin/Milton Shafer) and “Island in the West Indies” by Vernon Duke and Ira Gershwin from Ziegfeld Follies of 1936. Comstock, who often chooses a selection from the John Wallowitch songbook, is hilarious with “Warsaw.” Another remembrance is for a legend born in 1915, Billy Strayhorn: Comstock playing “Still in Love with You” with Sean Smith (“our partner in time”) on bass.

A favorite arrangement is Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies,” Fasano singing the well-known ambivalent lyrics, Comstock lending a light nimble piano backing and bassist Smith’s bow stressing the melancholy side of the song. The use of a minor key against stated lyrics of blue skies, blue days and gray skies lends the song a unique sadness and the trio brings this out.

Actually, “Why Go Anywhere at All?” (Arthur Schwartz/Howard Dietz) if Comstock and Fasano are in town? For world-class R&R, they have it all.

Eric & Barbara are at the Metropolitan Room from June 1 – 9.

Elizabeth Ahlfors

Born and raised in New York, Elizabeth graduated from NYU with a degree in Journalism. She has lived in various cities and countries and now is back in NYC. She has written magazine articles and published three books: A Housewife’s Guide to Women’s Liberation, Twelve American Women, and Heroines of ’76 (for children). A great love was always music and theater—in the audience, not performing. A Philadelphia correspondent for and InTheatre Magazine, she has reviewed theater and cabaret for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia City News. She writes for Cabaret Scenes and other cabaret/theater sites. She is a judge for Nightlife Awards and a voting member of Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle.