Monday, October 27, 2014

Homecoming weekend with Steve Ross at the Gaslight Cabaret Festival / Stacy Sullivan
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Who: Steve Ross
What: An Evening With Steve Ross
Where: The Gaslight Cabaret Festival at The Gaslight Theatre, St. Louis, MO
When: October 24 and 25, 2014

Mabel Mercer Award–winning cabaret artist Steve Ross has a long and happy relationship with St. Louis, going back to the early days of the Grandel Cabaret Series. He was one of the first performers to be featured by Jim Dolan's Presenters Dolan organization when it got off the ground many years ago, so his appearance last weekend at Jim's Gaslight Cabaret Festival had something of the feel of a homecoming.

Titled "An Evening With Steve Ross," the show was essentially a cavalcade of the singer/pianist's "greatest hits." That meant plenty of Noel Coward and Cole Porter (always a welcome combination) along with some Jerome Kern, a brace of Great American Songbook standards, and even a bit of operetta towards the end. There was also the return of his trademark Edith Piaf instrumental medley (including classics like "La Vie en Rose," "Milord," and "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rein," which I'm thinking of making my theme song) and a couple of tunes from Lehar's "The Merry Widow" with the lyrics Lorenz Hart wrote for the 1934 film version.

A veritable cornucopia, in short. Yes, it ran a bit long at around an hour and forty minutes, but the packed house didn't seem to mind. I think that's because Mr. Ross is an engaging, elegant, and charming performer in the mold of Noel Coward, whose green velvet smoking jacket (or, as he refers to it, his "non-smoking jacket") he now wears, courtesy of the Noel Coward society. It's axiomatic among cabaret performers that there's no place to hide in this field; the audience will invariably see who you truly are. Mr. Ross is truly a smart, generous, and generally nice guy, and that comes across on stage.

Those who have seen Mr. Ross during one of his dozen or so previous appearances in St. Louis know that he is not of the "this is my life" school of cabaret. For Mr. Ross, it's all about the music. He intertwines his singing with erudite and amusing commentary on the songs and their creators. Did you know, for example, that Noel Coward's wistful waltz ballad "Some Day I'll Find You" was the theme song for the long-running radio and early TV detective show "Mr. Keene, Tracer of Lost Persons?"* Or that the lyricists for that quintessential 1936 hymn to the City by the Bay, "San Francisco," were a pair of refugees from Nazi Germany?

An evening with Steve Ross, it seems, is not only entertaining, it's informative as well.

Steve Ross's appearances here are over, but the fall edition of the Gaslight Cabaret Festival continues through November 22 at the Gaslight Theater, 358 North Boyle. For more information, visit the web site. Note that parking around the theater is at a premium, so you might want to give serious thought to arriving early and having dinner or drinks at the West End Grill and Pub, which is attached to the theater.

*Or, for you Bob and Ray fans, "Mr. Trace, Keener Than Most Persons."

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