Yael Rasooly & Daniel Rein: A Hymn to Love

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Yael Rasooly & Daniel Rein

A Hymn to Love

Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, May 8, 2024

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg

Yael Rasooly

Yael Rasooly is a beautiful and extremely talented singer/actor who came to New York City from Israel for this show. Joining her was her music director/pianist Daniel Rein, who is also a singer and songwriter and who is based in the Big Apple. To add to the music side of the program, there was special guest trumpeter Rafael Castillo-Halvorssen, an exciting performer in his own right. Another iconic star was on the stage, but more about her in a bit. There was a great deal to enjoy in this show with so much artistry on hand, though it was all a bit helter-skelter. There was no real definition of what the show was intended to be about other than showing all of Rasooly’s many talents. She can be a jazz singer, classical singer, an international chanteuse, and actress, and a puppeteer—yes, a puppeteer!

Rein started the show with an elaborate performance of “September Song” (Kurt Weill/Maxwell Anderson) that slid into several other melodies by Weill and was more about Raine the pianist than about Weill as songwriter. Rasooly offered “Mon Ami, My Friend” (Weill/Paul Green) with a lovely mix of joy and sadness. Later, she showed her wide vocal range on “Non, je ne regrette rien” (Charles Dumont/Michel Vaucaire) and mixed it with some impressive riffs from Carmen. Her gamine side was quite charmingly displayed in the upbeat “Padam, padam” (Norbert Glanzberg/Henri Contet).

Rein soloed on “Speak Low” (Weill/Ogden Nash), this time keeping it simple, slow, and achingly emotional to great effect. Later, he shared a song he wrote, “Nightly Sun,” which was filled with strange imagery reminiscent of some of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s songs. He also cleverly improvised some whimsy during a stage wait. Castillo-Halvorssen showed his flexibility, and he joined in on the brooding “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” (Harry Warren/Al Dubin) and the joyous “I Love You Much Too Much” (Alexander Olshanesky/Chaim Tauer & Don Raye), which also allowed Rasooly to show off her skill as a jazz vocalist.

The theatrical and emotional center of the show was the iconic guest star, Edith Piaf. Yes, that icon. Well, she was there as an almost life-size puppet designed and inhabited by Rasooly. The illusion was so complete that the audience began to see two women on the stage, especially during the charming moment when the French star decided the Israeli singer needed more make up and applied lipstick to her. Two of Piaf’s most famous numbers were offered: “La Vie en rose” (Marguerite Monnot/Louis Guglielmi/Piaf) and “Hymne a l’amour” (Monnot/Piaf). There was also “La Foule” (Angel Cabral/Michel Rivegauche), which was given a dramatic staging that involved Castillo-Halvorssen and was surprisingly touching. Rasooly promised to return with a full show featuring her companion, something to happily anticipate.

Later highlights included “L’accordeoniste” (Michel Emer), which was set up well and was delivered with subtle touches that dealt with the changing moods of the material. The evening came to a close with the classic “Smile” (Charles Chaplin/John Turner & Geoffrey Parsons) performed by all three musicians with each, in turn, taking the lead. It was a lovely and touching way to end this varied program.

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."