Not everyone is in the mood for love this month, despite the best efforts of Hallmark, Kay Jewelers, and that blond guy on The Bachelor. But Amanda McBroom, the Golden Globe-winning singer/songwriter, is determined to get even the most resistant heart beating just a little faster with A Valentine Rose, her new show at the Café Carlyle, which hits deeps.
For her first foray into this most prestigious – and most romantic – of New York's cabaret rooms, McBroom has chosen a carefully constructed repertoire, combining some of her best-known compositions with familiar, comforting favorites. (As she notes with grace and good humor, her husband reminded her to give the room's well-heeled patrons some songs they might know.) A seasoned interpreter of other people's lyrics, McBroom smoothly performs such well-worn standards as "Let's Fall In Love," "I've Got You Under My Skin," "My Funny Valentine," and "The Way You Look Tonight," and will likely have you holding hands with your table partner – or maybe even someone at the next table – while she sings them.
Indeed, some of the show's strongest moments occur when McBroom delves into other people's material. Her rendition of her songwriting partner and accompanist Michele Brourman's gorgeous "My Favorite Year," an ode to the first love who got away, is beautifully bittersweet; she breathes new life in the pop classic, "12th of Never," by fully exploring its declaration of everlasting devotion; and her almost-primal version of Jacques Brel's shattering portrait of loss and remembrance, "Marieke," is simply unequaled. (In her early career as an actress, McBroom starred in numerous productions of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.)
But the real reason to accept this Rose is to sample McBroom's own first-rate work for the first time (or hear it all over again if you're a long-time fan like myself). "Errol Flynn," a touching tribute to her late father, movie actor David Bruce, is guaranteed to make any listener both smile and shed a tear -- all within three minutes. The extraordinary "Dance" will instantly strike a chord with anyone in a long relationship that has lost the glimmer of its early promise. And Shakespeare lovers will get a chuckle out of the humorous "Titania," penned for her short-lived Off-Broadway show, A Woman of Will.
The show's piece de resistance, naturally, is "The Rose," which McBroom wrote for the 1979 Bette Midler film of the same name. There is something undeniably special about hearing the song's author perform it -- and McBroom fills her own words with a trenchant mix of wisdom, acceptance, and hope. The coldest heart has no choice but to thaw after taking this musical masterpiece in.