Nancy McGraw: In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening

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Nancy McGraw

In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening

Beach Café, NYC, December 8, 2018

Reviewed by Peter Haas for Cabaret Scenes

Nancy McGraw

It’s been a dozen years since Nancy McGraw performed a solo cabaret show. Her return, to a packed Beach Café in December, was worth the wait, as she took center stage to offer a fresh, warm evening focusing on the lyrics of Johnny Mercer.
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With Mark Nadler strongly supportive at the piano—and serving, too, as the show’s director, music director and musical arranger—McGraw traced Mercer’s career which carried him from Savannah to Hollywood and New York.

Singing as she entered the room, she opened with a sprightly “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” (music: Hoagy Carmichael), followed by an upbeat “Come Rain or Come Shine” (Harold Arlen) and “Have You Got Any Castles, Baby?

” (Richard Whiting). The mellow side of Mercer was underscored with her performance of “If Some Day Comes Ever Again” (Alec Wilder) and “The Days of Wine and Roses” (Henry Mancini), while Mercer’s earliest collaboration with Carmichael was spotlighted by her fun-spirited rendition of “Lazy Bones.

Mercer’s pairings with Arlen came alive as McGraw sang the poignant “I Wonder What Became of Me,” “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)” and—performed almost as a one-act play in a range of emotions—“Blues in the Night.” Nadler joined in on the Mercer/Harry Warren hit, “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe,” echoing the train as it picked up speed.
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Several of Mercer’s best-known songs completed the show, as McGraw offered “Whistling Away the Dark” and “Moon River” (both Mancini) and—in another Mercer/Arlen collaboration—“Hit the Road to Dreamland.”

The resounding, affectionate applause following her finale reflects the hope that she will return to the cabaret stage before another dozen years pass.

Peter Haas

Writer, editor, lyricist and banjo plunker, Peter Haas has been contributing features and performance reviews for Cabaret Scenes since the magazine’s infancy. As a young folk-singer, he co-starred on Channel 13’s first children’s series, Once Upon a Day; wrote scripts, lyrics and performed on Pickwick Records’ children’s albums, and co-starred on the folk album, All Day Singing. In a corporate career, Peter managed editorial functions for CBS Records and McGraw-Hill, and today writes for a stable of business magazines. An ASCAP Award-winning lyricist, his work has been performed at Carnegie Hall, Feinstein’s, Metropolitan Room and other fine saloons.