Bob Ader: Harry Who?: The Songs of Harry Warren

  • Post author:
  • Reading time:3 mins read

Bob Ader

Harry Who?: The Songs of Harry Warren

Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, December 10, 2023

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg

Bob Ader

Bob Ader offered a salute to composer Harry Warren, the gentlemen who essentially wrote the soundtrack of America from the early Busby Berkeley extravaganzas at Warner Bros, to war time escapist fare at 20th Century Fox, to the final years of the golden age at MGM, and then to some time at Paramount. Ader showed why Warren should be better remembered with his presentation of Harry Who? at Don’t Tell Mama under the smooth direction of Marilyn Spanier, who also happens to be his wife. Salvatore Messano provided the topflight musical arrangements that were performed at the piano by the gifted Elliot Finkel.

Ader seemed determined to bring back a neglected period of show business, and he reached back to the vaudeville era with his singing, tap dancing, imitations of the stars of past era (some more effective than others), old jokes, and piano playing and by simply charming the audience. At times he verged on becoming a slightly less manic Mickey Rooney, but he mostly kept things in check as he jumped from one talent to the next. Happily, Harry Warren never got lost in the shuffle.

By kicking off the show with the famous speech from 42nd Street about the two greatest words in the English language—”musical comedy”—Ader made the entire program show-biz heaven. Much of the music was wisely presented in chronological order, which gave a real sense of Warren’s changing style. Classics from the Depression years—“Lullaby of Broadway,” “I Only Have Eyes for You,”and “About a Quarter to Nine,” along with a very early gem, “I Love My Baby (My Baby Loves Me)” were delivered with great panache. The big-band era, with dandy appropriate arrangements, was celebrated with “I Got a Gal in Kalamazoo” and “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” and a lovely rendition of “You’ll Never Know” on which Ader accompanied himself on piano. Other highlights included a zestful “That’s Amore” and a charming “You Wonderful You.” Ader gave us such a joyful time that it will be fun to see which composer he decides to pay tribute to next.

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."