Lisa Faith Phillips Let’s Do It Again: The Songs and Love Affairs of George Gershwin

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Lisa Faith Phillips

Let’s Do It Again: The Songs and Love Affairs of George Gershwin

Pangea, NYC, May 10, 2024

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg

Lisa Faith Phillips

George Gershwin is generally recognized as one of the greatest American composers for the stage, the movies, and the concert hall. He was also a Lothario of epic proportions who romanced chorus girls, composers, and movie stars without any consideration of social class. The over-the-top Lisa Faith Phillips—part historian, part mature sex kitten, part Auntie Mame—shared her discovery of Gershwin’s many love affairs, admitting that she could include only a few in the time available. Of course, she also featured a generous sampling of his compositions, delivered with the support of music director/pianist John Di Martino (who also provided continuous background piano work throughout the evening) and vocalist Deana Kirk. All the songs were by George and Ira Gershwin, except when noted.

Phillips started the show by wandering through the audience purring “Do It Again” (lyrics by Buddy DeSylva) as she teased some lucky members of the audience with a leather crop—an unlikely but appropriate beginning. She described her fascination with all things Gershwin by giving an impression of her six-year-old self singing “I Got Rhythm” and giving out  definite Shirley Temple vibes. On a more adult level, “Fascinating Rhythm” provided the first duet of the evening between Phillips and the powerfully voiced Kirk. Given Phillips’ limited vocal abilities, Kirk basically served as her voice—just like Lisa Kirk helped out Rosalind Russell. At times this worked very well; at other times Phillips intruded into the songs with strange emphasis on certain words and phrases for decreasing effect.

Mention of charming notes from Adele Astaire to Gershwin led to Kirk’s giving a sultry version of “The Man I Love,” which had a bit too much emotion. That was a habit of hers, but she had beautiful tones. Talk about the composer’s lengthy romance with Kay Swift led to the revelation that her name was borrowed for the leading character in his musical Oh, Kay! That led to a performance of “Someone to Watch Over Me” from that score, one of the writer’s most touching compositions. Reference to some rumored aspects of the two composers’ affair introduced the livelier “Treat Me Rough,” and that riding crop reappeared. A sexy rendition of the witty and suggestive “Aren’t You Kind of Glad We Did” followed. Phillips suggested that the end of their romance was the inspiration for “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.”

One of the stranger moments of the evening came when Phillips, recalling her burlesque days in London as a college student, performed a modified striptease to “They All Laughed.” Gershwin’s final grand romance was with the movie star Paulette Goddard, which was commemorated in the lovely “They Can’t Take Away from Me.” The evening ended with a sing-a-along on “Love Is Here to Stay.” The show was never less than lively, and it was often surprising, despite some questionable decisions along the way.

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."

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