An Evening with Paulo Szot
The Tony Award winner's cabaret debut at the Cafe Carlyle offers an often thrilling, deeply personal collection of American standards and Brazilian songs.
The dashingly handsome, gorgeously-voiced Szot spent much of the past 2 1/2 years playing French planter Emile de Becque in South Pacific, but he is of Brazilian heritage, a fact which informs his entire show. Indeed, he bookends his show with his signature tunes from South Pacific, "Some Enchanted Evening" and "This Nearly Was Mine," both done in Latin-tinged jazz arrangements that breathe new life into the songs, while admittedly draining a little bit of their emotional power.
The same feelings come across with a similar take on "If I Loved You" -- which sounds quite different here from the many overly ponderous versions of this classic show tune; while a surprisingly fast, samba-inflected rendition of "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" turned the Lerner & Loewe standard (from My Fair Lady) into a truly happy love song without its customary touch of bittersweetness.
Much of the program was performed either in Szot's native Portugese or in Spanish, including four tunes by the great Antonio Carlos Jobim and the supernal Mexican standard "Besame Mucho," and whether or not one could understand the lyrics, Szot's passion shone through. Indeed, during these selections, Szot seemed more comfortable, physically, than in other moments, where he could appear a tiny bit stiff.
Nonetheless, that same ardor and commitment could be found in hauntingly beautiful renditions of such English-language standards as "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square," "So In Love," "Make Someone Happy," and, especially, "Nature Boy."