Serendipity is a funny thing. While John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey planned their stunning new cabaret show, This Must Be the Place?, weeks before the arrival of Hurricane Sandy, the long-married pair was the first to acknowledge that the show's theme of "home" had added resonance now, even for the moneyed patrons safe and sound within the cozy confines of the Café Carlyle.
As the couple crooned, swung, and strummed their way through a wide selection of tunes about people searching for shelter, longing for lost loves, and taking journeys to this world and beyond, it was impossible not to be thankful for one's own surroundings (and companions) and feel intense sorrow for those who have suffered devastation and loss in the past few days.
Of course, even without the tide of current events on one's mind, the show would still be something to remember. It's a triumph of musicianship and ingenuity that often stretches the boundaries of conventional cabaret, especially with its frequent forays into the pop catalogue.
Starting with a beautifully conceived pairing of David Byrne's "This Must Be the Place" and John Lennon and Paul McCartney's "The Two of Us" that set the tone for the evening, pop gems took on new meanings, from Paul Simon's classic tale of life on the road, "Homeward Bound", set to the rhythms of Pat Metheny's "Last Train Home" to Tom Petty's slice-of-life tale "Free Falling," and James Taylor's gorgeously elegiac "It's Enough to Be On Your Way."
Best of all were a pair of Joni Mitchell tunes: "Free Man in Paris," given an understated, understanding rendition by Pizzarelli, and the lesser-known, painfully sad "Marcie," brilliantly delivered by Molaskey as if she had lived the life of the title character.
Standards, no less welcome, were mostly handled in a more traditional fashion -- from a lovely "I Thought About You" to delightfully uptempo takes on "Avalon" and "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To."
Unsurprisingly, I walked out the door with the strains of the set's final number, Tina Landau and Ricky Ian Gordon's "Finding Home" (from Dream True) – exquisitely performed by Mokaskey – still in my head. And as I hopped into a cab to my small but precious studio apartment, I was grateful both to have been reminded of life's blessings and to have been so beautifully entertained.