My nostalgia-loving pals and I had come to Westbury to take in a performance by Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme during what is being billed as their last concert tour, and I'm thrilled to report that this was the best kind of nostalgia. Rather than being ghosts of their younger selves, Steve and Eydie looked terrific and sounded almost as fabulous as they did four decades ago.
The show began with a delightful montage of vintage TV clips of Steve and/or Eydie performing with the likes of Ethel Merman, Judy Garland, Carol Burnett, Perry Como, and Frank Sinatra. This primed the audience for the couple's entrance and the opening mini-medley of two of their biggest hits, "Together" (by Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim, from Gypsy) and "This Could Be the Start of Something Big" (by Steve Allen). Another mini-medley followed, consisting of two songs by the Gershwins: "S'Wonderful" into "The Man I Love."
While Steve and Eydie are known primarily as nightclub, concert, and TV entertainers, they do have strong ties to Broadway: Aside from the fact that their concert repertoire includes many Main Stem standards, Steve starred in the musical What Makes Sammy Run? in 1964 and the couple subsequently co-starred in Golden Rainbow in 1968. At Westbury, Steve sang the latter show's biggest hit, "I've Gotta Be Me." This was followed by Steve and Eydie duetting on two Frank Loesser songs, "Baby, It's Cold Outside" and "No Two People" (the latter composed for the film Hans Christian Andersen).
After the couple had cavorted together for 15 or 20 minutes, Steve left the stage to Eydie for her solo segment, including the songs "What Did I Have?" (from On a Clear Day You Can See Forever), "After You've Gone," and "If He Walked Into My Life" (from Mame). These were monster hits for Eydie in her heyday; rather than transpose the arrangements downward, she opted instead to retain the original keys and to alter the melodies of a few high-lying phrases where she apparently felt less than 100% secure. I won't say that this skirting of high notes wasn't disappointing, but the woman sang so spectacularly well overall that any such feeling passed quickly.
If the march of time was slightly evident in Eydie's voice -- during the first half of the show, anyway -- the same could not be said for her husband. Sounding almost exactly the same as he did in the 1960s, '70s, '80s or '90s, Steve Lawrence had the audience in the palm of his hand for his solo segment, during which he sang "More," "I've Got You Under My Skin" (in the spectacular arrangement that Nelson Riddle created for Frank Sinatra), "That's All," and "A Portrait of My Love" (in the gorgeous Don Costa arrangement). Steve is a charming and charismatic showman whose pipes are fully intact, and it was a rare treat to hear these amazing charts played live by a terrific, 27-piece orchestra.
Steve explained that Sinatra had sent him a huge box of some of his greatest arrangements before he died. (What a gift!) He and Eydie then offered a Sinatra mega-mix that sampled many of those arrangements for such numbers as "All or Nothing at All," "Come Fly With Me," "Night and Day," "One for My Baby," "That's Life," and two songs that pretty well summed up the show in general: "Young at Heart" and "You Make Me Feel So Young." This seemed to be the end of the performance -- but then Steve and Eydie came out and did another half hour! A lot of it was comedy material, the kind of ancient, borscht-belt schtick that's makes you groan even while you're laughing helplessly. But the singing was not over. In fact, Eydie's voice seemed to grow in power as she and her hubby hit almost a dozen more songs out of the ballpark; among them were "Blame It on the Bossa Nova," "Fly Me to the Moon," "When I Fall in Love," "Where or When," "I Wish You Love," and "New York, New York."
The final song of the evening -- the Gershwins' "Love is Here to Stay" -- was highly appropriate. The personal and professional partnership of Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme stretches back more than 40 years, and these two still seem to adore each other. That amazing chemistry, combined with their singing and their showmanship, makes for one hell of an evening's entertainment. Although their five-performance gig at Westbury ends on Sunday, May 18, their farewell tour continues after that. For information, vist the website www.steveandeydie.com.