Euan Morton
(© Joan Marcus)
Euan Morton
(© Joan Marcus)
Euan Morton begins his show Here and Now at the Algonquin Hotel's Oak Room with "Pure Imagination" -- and booking this young, velvet-voiced star into the venerable cabaret space for a month-long stint took just that kind of free-thinking. And does it pay off! A singer seemingly more suited to Joe's Pub or The Zipper, Morton -- a former Tony Award nominee for Taboo -- has smoothly made the transition to this sophisticated club without losing one iota of his singular style.

With a wee nod to his Scottish homeland with a piece by Robert Burns, "My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose," Morton establishes his roots and then moves on to display the depth and breadth of the musical heritage that he now embraces with songs ranging from the Gershwins to Leonard Cohen. Variety, surely, is the catchword of this musically eclectic program, but most impressive was Morton's decision to treat each song with full respect to its original intent and avoid the current cabaret cliché of combining the verse of one song with the chorus of another to create something supposedly new.

Perhaps the real reason Morton doesn't sing cabaret concoctions or sewed-together medleys is because he doesn't need any tricks to wow an audience. He has a voice one could listen to for hours on end; it is warm, round-toned, and glistening with feeling. But more than that, he's a performer who is fully alive on stage.

When he sings "I Can Dream, Can't I," it's a tender romantic plea that is sweetly delicate. And then, just as readily, he can deliver "It's Only a Paper Moon" with swinging charm. Give him something with dramatic depth and he delivers, as evidenced by his soulful reading of Sondheim's "No One Is Alone," and his drop-dead signature version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." Our only criticism of the show is that "Hallelujah" should be his finale number and not several songs before the end; everything that follows (except his terrific encore number, "You Got It") turns out to be a tad anti-climactic.

Although he isn't singing a program of rock and pop numbers, or even anything from Taboo, his longtime fans will be just as swept away by his more "grownup" show, just as new fans will be made by virtue of the honesty of his performance.