One is inherently sexy; the other mimics a child's idea of "sexy." One sings with a talent honed by years in the theater; the other sings as if enjoying the sound of her own voice. One is a star; the other is on the cusp.
Christine Andreas is the pro who just started a run at the Café Carlyle; Jane Monheit is the pup who just finished her stint at the Oak Room. Here is a look at both:
Her dress the captive of a recalcitrant dry cleaner, Christine Andreas opened her gig at the Café Carlyle clothed in a trenchcoat. Even so, she was more alluring than most women are when gorgeously gowned. That's because her real clothing is her voice: If Mel Tormé was "The Velvet Fog," Andreas is "The Velvet Vibrato." Her instrument may not be pleasing to every ear, but it is certainly distinctive, and Andreas puts it to good use in her new cabaret act dedicated to great ladies of the theater.
When last seen and heard at the Café Carlyle, the singer took a stab at jazz, and it simply wasn't her metier. Now, with Here's to the Ladies, she returns to theater music in a well-structured act that allows her to charm us with her patter as well as to sing some of Broadway's greatest hits. It's a challenging program, as she sets herself the unenviable task of rendering songs that are deeply identified with theater icons. But Andreas holds her own, wisely taking a humble attitude and acknowledging her debt to these ladies. She never claims to be in the league of Mary Martin, Barbara Cook, Gertrude Lawrence, etc. She is, however, our link to them.
Andreas begins by sharing a dream she had about Ethel Merman; then she sings "Some People" from Gypsy, gliding into the show with wit and style. There follows a gentle interpretation of "My Ship" from Lady in the Dark, made famous by Gertrude Lawrence, and a tender and winsome "Will He Like Me?" from She Loves Me, with which Barbara Cook scored and continues to score. Though Andreas doesn't touch Mary Martin's "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" from Cole Porter's Leave It to Me, one of the show's many highlights is her rendition of "Bill" from Show Boat, forever associated with Helen Morgan. Andreas isn't always one to dig deep into a lyric, but when she makes the attempt it pays off, in songs like "If He Walked Into My Life" from Mame and "I Could Have Danced All Night" from My Fair Lady (she got to perform the last-named number on Broadway in the 1976 revival of that classic musical). Christine Andreas puts on a good show--and, by now, she's hopefully putting on her dress as well.
There are reasons why Jane Monheit is getting so much hype; she has an amazing, supple voice, and she looks terrific. There are also reasons why this 23-year-old jazz baby shouldn't be shot out of a cannon into superstardom just yet. For one thing, she doesn't interpret lyrics. Period. Every song she offers, however beautifully sung, sounds the same. And every move she makes seems as sincere as George W. Bush at an NAACP meeting.
For her recent show at the Oak Room, Monheit presented a program of standards sung prettily but not sincerely. And oh, those poses! At times, she seemed to be doing an impression of Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not. ("You know how to sing, don't you, Steve? You just put your two lips together and scat.") This woman has the talent to become the star that she's hyped to be, but if she achieves stardom at her current level of craft, she won't retain it for long. If, on the other hand, she learns to internalize the lyrics she sings--if she stops pretending to be a chanteuse and, instead, becomes herself on stage--she can look forward to a lifetime of accolades.