Jeff Harnar: Too Marvelous for Words: A 1930s Songbook

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Jeff Harnar

Too Marvelous for Words: A 1930s Songbook
Beach Café, NYC, December 9, 2019
Reviewed by Peter Haas

Jeff Harnar
Photo: Stephen Sorokoff

The 1930s was a golden period for popular song. Its writers included the Gershwins, Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, “Yip” Harburg, and more. Fast forward to this past season, as Jeff Harnar, with Alex Rybeck at the piano, brought 20 of the decade’s works back to life in a merry and sweet musical evening at the intimate Beach Cafe.

The spirit of Fred Astaire was present as Harnar began the proceedings with the Gershwins’ upbeat “Shall We Dance” and “I Can’t Be Bothered Now,” followed by Rodgers and Hart’s “Where or When” (with the audience joining in) and “Johnny One Note,” both from Babes in Arms. Popular Cole Porter songs followed: “It’s De-Lovely” and “Little Skipper,” the latter sung in Jimmy Durante style.
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Harnar then segued into a more romantic mood with “Dancing in the Dark” (Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz) and “Falling in Love with Love” (Rodgers and Hart).

The era—and Harnar’s evening—included a number of comic songs. On the program were Noël Coward’s “Don’t Put Your Daughter on the Stage, Mrs.
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Worthington” and Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg’s “Lydia the Tattooed Lady” (forever identified with Groucho Marx), which Harnar delivered with his own high spirits. His warmth and skill with a ballad were also was much in evidence as he performed Cole Porter’s “In the Still of the Night” and “Night and Day,” and Richard Whiting and Johnny Mercer’s evergreen, “Too Marvelous for Words.”

Also included was the Gershwins’ “Love Is Here to Stay,” which became an audience sing-along—and the program’s sweet finale.

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.