Maria Corsaro & Kati Neiheisel: Love Is…

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Maria Corsaro & Kati Neiheisel

Love Is…

Pangea, NYC, February 4, 2022

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg

Maria Corsaro & Katie Neiheisel

Cabaret celebrations of romance are as common in February as Christmas carols are in December. What a pleasure it was to encounter one production that lacked sentimentality. It’s not that chanteuses Maria Corsaro and Kati Neiheisel lack emotion in their delivery of an intriguing mix of songs. Each has a strong individual approach to her material, though they occasionally (sadly, too occasionally in this case) blended together in enchanting harmonies.

An added pleasure to the evening was music director Gregory Toroian, who not only provided the continuously tasty and surprising arrangements but contributed a fair share of vocals himself in his pleasant and flexible voice, both as solos and in duets with both women. A medley of two Marvin Hamlisch’s compositions, “One Hello” (Carole Bayer Sager) and “The Last Time I Felt Like This” (lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman), was offered with a touching sincerity. He later joined Neiheisel for a dramatic duet on “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” (Michel Legand/the Bergmans), which was a complete story in one extended number.

Neiheisel got to show off her versatility during the evening, from her playful jazzy version of “Let’s Fall in Love” (Harold Arlen/Ted Koehler) to a ’50s doo-wop delivery of “Be Anything” (Irving Gordon)—a highlight of the show. She also provided an authentically French “She (He)” (Charles Aznavour/Herbert Kretzmer) and a very American jazz version of “Take Love Easy” (Duke Ellington /John LaTouche) that provided a show-off opportunity for both her and the band, which included Skip Ward on bass and David Silliman on drums. In fact, this song could easily have been the title of the show given the approach to the evening providedby director Geoffrey Stoner—always inviting the audience in rather than forcing itself on them.

Corsaro showed a wide range in her performance, from playfully scatting her way through “Exactly Like You” (Jimmy McHugh/Dorothy Fields) to the powerful emotions-kept-below-the-surface “You Don’t Know Me” (Cindy Walker/Eddy Arnold) Throughout, her work was marked by a fiercely intelligent approach to lyrics coupled with an impressive clarity. Another highlight was a medley of perfectly matched songs, “Over the Rainbow” (Arlen/Yip Harburg) and “Make Me Rainbows” (John Williams/the Bergmans) in another great arrangement by Toroian). She is a  performer who has to perform first-rate material because anything less would be exposed with her honesty.

If the evening lacked anything, it might have been a few more funny songs since all three performers clearly possess a sense of humor. But even with the emphasis on ballads and torch songs, this was an unexpectedly engaging evening. Hopefully, there will be more from this trio.

Bart Greenberg

Bart Greenberg first discovered cabaret a few weeks after arriving in New York City by seeing Julie Wilson and William Roy performing Stephen Sondheim and Cole Porter outdoors at Rockefeller Center. It was instant love for both Ms. Wilson and the art form. Some years later, he was given the opportunity to create his own series of cabaret shows while working at Tower Records. "Any Wednesday" was born, a weekly half-hour performance by a singer promoting a new CD release. Ann Hampton Callaway launched the series. When Tower shut down, Bart was lucky to move the program across the street to Barnes & Noble, where it thrived under the generous support of the company. The series received both The MAC Board of Directors Award and The Bistro Award. Some of the performers who took part in "Any Wednesday" include Barbara Fasano and Eric Comstock, Tony Desare, Andrea Marcovicci, Carole Bufford, the Karens, Akers, Mason and Oberlin, and Julie Wilson. Privately, Greenberg is happily married to writer/photographer Mark Wallis, who as a performance artist in his native England gathered a major following as "I Am Cereal Killer."