Jeff Harnar: The East Side of Heaven

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Jeff Harnar

The East Side of Heaven

Beach Café, NYC, March 23, 2019

Reviewed by Peter Haas for Cabaret Scenes

Jeff Harnar
Photo: Steve Friedman

“New York, New York, it’s a helluva town!”—especially on a Saturday night when your tour-guides-in-song are Jeff Harnar and Alex Rybeck. Their boarding point: Beach Cafe, with Harnar at the microphone and Rybeck at the piano (and often contributing his own merry singing).

The evening was packed with classic songs celebrating the city, its charms, its quirks, and its songwriters. Leading the latter were Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields, with Harnar’s rendition of their “My Personal Property’ and “My City.” Kander and Ebb were on hand with (of course) “Theme from New York, New York,” while that quintessential Waldorfian, Cole Porter, was spotlighted with a “friendship medley” that included “You’re the Top,” “Did You Evah?,” and “Let’s Be Buddies.” Portia Nelson was remembered with Harnar’s rendition of her “love/hate” relationship with the city, “Confessions of a New Yorker,” while added servings of humor included performances of Larry Kerchner’s “My Dinner with Mrs.

Farnsworth” and Rick Crom’s “Oklahoma,” the latter a grand gag as the Rodgers and Hammerstein song might have been written by Stephen Sondheim.

Harnar’s especially warm way of singing a ballad was highlighted by his performances of such numbers as “East Side of Heaven” (James V. Monaco/Johnny Burke); “How Little We Know” (Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer); remembered as Lauren Bacall’s number opposite Humphrey Bogart in To Have and Have Not); “Blame It on My Youth” (Oscar Levant); and the Rodgers and Hart classic, “Falling in Love with Love.” The songs took a philosophical turn with Kander and Ebb’s “But the World Goes ’Round” and Dean Kay/Kelly Gordon’s “That’s Life,” leading smoothly into a warm finale of Porter’s “I Happen to Like New York”—that was greeted by the audience’s standing ovation.

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.