Craig Pomranz: Berlin to Dylan to Simon and Garfunkel—It’s All Kosher

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Craig Pomranz

Berlin to Dylan to Simon and Garfunkel—It’s All Kosher

Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, October 28, 2023

Reviewed by Alix Cohen

Craig Pomranz   Photo: Richard Termine

In 1911, son-of-a-cantor Israel Beilin (Irving Berlin) was a song-plugger when he wrote “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.” It was a huge hit, and perhaps, Craig Pomranz suggested, it opened a door to the Jewish influence on popular music. This artist’s version started quiet, and then picked up syncopation. He growled on the word “honey.” “Embraceable You” by Jacob Gershwine/Israel Gershovitz (George and Ira Gershwin) followed. (Their father, Morris Gershovitz, changed the name after Ira was born.) It’s been some years since I’ve seen Pomranz perform. He sings higher now, above the note, raising his chin to do so. This works better with muted songs.

Curiously, Pomranz didn’t have fun with the vaudevillian tunes “Secondhand Rose” (Grant Clark/Frederick Hanley) and “Sam, You Made the Pants Too Long” (Victor Young/Sam Lewis née Levine). Murray Grand’s “I Always Say Hello to a Flower,” however, arrived vaudeville-light and enchanting—“Hiya-synth!,” “Hi-drangia!”— and was preceded by a with a sweet anecdote. Go figure.  

An unembellished “A Yiddische Momme” (Jack Selig Yellin/Lew Pollack) was touching rather than schmaltzy. “I know this is an old song because my Yiddische Momme never had grey hair,” Pomranz quipped. A rendition of “Far from the Home I Love” by Jerrold Lewis Bock (Jerry Bock)/Sheldon Mayer Harnick (Sheldon Harnick), customarily performed by Tevye’s daughter Havel in Fiddler on the Roof, was introduced as beingabout loving someone and having the courage to live one’s own life.” This selection also landed meaningfully and notably empathetically.

Acknowledging that “most of our popular Christmas songs were written by Jewish people,” Pomranz sang Berlin’s “In Your Easter Bonnet” (with audience assistance) and “White Christmas” (strangely without audience assistance). The latter was followed by “I’m Dreaming of a White Hanukkah” “with the Hanukkah Menorah/Children reading the Torah/May all your bushes burn bright,” a parody sorely in need of Barry Kleinbort’s cleverness.

Paul Frederic Simon/Arthur Ira Garfunkel (Paul Simon/Art Garfunkel)’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” emerged aptly as a hymn, as, effectively, did Robert Allen Zimmerman’s (Bob Dylan) “Forever Young.” This is a show from the point of view of a mature artist—not just in age, but also in terms of life view.

Pomranz’s signature “I Love Being Here with You” by Norma Deloris Engstrom (Peggy Lee) and Bill Schluger, elicited the audience’s response to “I love when you call my name” with a vociferous “CRAIG!” He closed with Harold Lane David/Burt Freeman Bacharach’s (Hal David/ Burt Bacharach) “What the World Needs Now.” As with some of the other songs tonight, what might have been corny seemed appropriate and needed. The room sang along with gusto.

Frequent big endings could successfully have been halved. The director was Ronald Cohen. Music director/pianist Michael Roberts’ arrangements were pedestrian and sometimes competed with the vocalist.

Alix Cohen

Alix Cohen’s writing began with poetry, segued into lyrics then took a commercial detour. She now authors pieces about culture/the arts, including reviews and features. A diehard proponent of cabaret, she’s also a theater aficionado, a voting member of Drama Desk, The Drama League and of The NY Press Club in addition to MAC. Currently, Alix writes for Cabaret Scenes, Theater Pizzazz and Woman Around Town. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine and Times Square Chronicles. Alix is the recipient of six New York Press Club Awards.