Sunday, April 29, 2007

Isn't it Romantic?

[Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano brought their cabaret show, A Little Romance to The Cabaret at Savor series in St. Louis April 26th through 29th, 2007. This is the text of my review for KDHX-FM.]

If memory serves, when Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano appeared at the Grand Center Cabaret series back in the fall of 2005, they struck me as being a pair of very talented performers who, while they shared the same program, had not quite jelled as a duo. They were both very strong, but the result, as I recall, was rather a mix of fire and ice (or chilled martini, at any rate).

Of course, at my age, memory doesn't always serve; sometimes it merely stands and waits. Still, when Comstock and Fasano took the tiny stage at the Savor cabaret series this weekend, it seemed to me that they were now, without a doubt, a Team. This wasn't an evening with Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano, it was a night out with the Comstock-Fasano Duo — and a richly rewarding night it was for lovers of American song.

The theme of the show this time is A Little Romance, and so the program is dedicated almost entirely to the pursuit of what Quentin Crisp once referred to as “the epidermal felicity of two featherless bipeds in desperate congress”. The mood ranges from the yearning of Billy Strayhorn's “No One Knows” and the Weill/Anderson classic “It Never Was You” (from 1938's Knickerbocker Holiday, Weill's second American show) to the unabashed celebration of promiscuity in Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh's “When in Rome”. The balance between ballads and up-tempo numbers is just right, and the selection nicely showcases the variety of the idea of romance from the serious to the sexy and from the sad to the sublime.

There's also a nice mix of familiar standards and new discoveries. Fasano notes that one of the joys of putting together a program like this is coming across a previously unknown gem of a song such as Jule Styne and “Yip” Harburg's lovely “That Something Extra Special” from Darling of the Day, a 1968 flop (31 performances) that starred Vincent Price as an artist who switches identities with his deceased “gentleman's gentleman” to escape the pressures of fame. The score is, I'm told, a warm and witty affair, and Fasano's performance certainly makes a strong case for it here, as she does for another rarity, the Alec Wilder/Fran Landesman collaboration “Photographs”.

Even some well-known songs get new lyrics here. “All I Need is the Girl” (from Gypsy, of course), for example, gets a female spin in the second chorus and Comstock provides a raft of new lyrics for Porter's classic “Let's Do It”. That's not exactly radical of course — everyone from Noel Coward to Garrison Keillor has had a whack at it — but this is the first time I've head the song used for political commentary. Comstock does it in such a droll and witty way, however, that only the most rabid neocon is likely to be offended.

The bulk of the evening, however, is given over to stylish and sensitive performances of songs that are familiar because they're such fine examples of the songwriter's art. That includes “As Long as I Live” and “My Shining Hour” — two classics by one of America's more under-appreciated composers, Harold Arlen — and a subtle rendition of “The Surrey With the Fringe on Top” by Fasano that concludes with a rather cinematic fade-out. It was also nice to hear “The Lady's in Love With You” — a Burton Lane/Frank Loesser collaboration introduced by Bob Hope and Shirley Ross in Some Like it Hot, a 1939 trifle that has, as far as I know, nothing to do with the 1959 hit of the same name.

Comstock's piano technique remains fluid and occasionally even witty in a sort of Chico Marx vein, and he and Fasano harmonize beautifully on “As Long as I Live”, as they do throughout the evening — even when they're not singing together. If their marriage is as solid a partnership as their act, there will be “Two for the Road” (to quote the final song in the program) for many years to come.

Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano will be bringing A Little Romance to the Flim-Flam Room at Savor, 4356 Lindell, through Sunday [April 29, 2007], after which they're off to Katonah (NY), Ann Arbor, and then back to The Big Apple for a Johnny Mercer tribute at Carnegie Hall. For information on the Savor show, call 314-531-0220 or visit For information on future peregrinations of the Comstock-Fasano Duo, visit or

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