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Sandy Stewart and Bill Charlap: Somebody Loves Me

The pair's new cabaret show at the Algonquin Hotel's Oak Room is a heartfelt exploration of the Great American Songbook. logo
Sandy Stewart and Bill Charlap
"I'm old fashioned," sings Sandy Stewart early on in Somebody Loves Me, her latest onstage collaboration with her son, jazz pianist Bill Charlap, at the Algonquin Hotel's Oak Room. Not surprisingly to the pair's fans, the Johnny Mercer lyric proves to be an apt summation of this heartfelt cabaret show.

The act is firmly dedicated to the true standards of the Great American Songbook -- with the work of George and Ira Gershwin, Jerome Kern, and Irving Berlin front and center. There are no novelty songs or comic ditties or trunk songs being performed here -- although the pair smartly mix ballads and gentle "uptempo" numbers such as "How About You" and "Who Cares" -- and many audience members will have to restrain themselves from singing along with every word.

Stewart, her voice still clear and strong after many decades as a performer, is a singer who eschews frills (and even patter), firmly concentrating on each note and each phrase of a song. At her best, she plunges directly into the heart of a song, such as the Gershwins' gorgeously bittersweet "Isn't It a Pity," or Vernon Duke's beautiful "Autumn in New York."

While Charlap has emerged in recent years as one of the world's foremost jazz pianists -- he recently led the all-star band assembled to salute Dave Brubeck at the Kennedy Center Honors -- he appears more than happily content through most of the show to simply provide inspired support for his mother. As has been tradition, he does grab the spotlight for a few solo numbers mid-show; on opening night, he dazzled with a stunning interpretation of Stephen Sondheim's "You Must Meet My Wife," and a deliciously joyful take on "Tea for Two."

There may be few fireworks in Somebody Loves Me, but there's plenty of warmth to help temporarily relieve New York's winter chill.

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