Given her decades-long fascination with Doris Day, it is a bit surprising that it’s taken Mary Cleere Haran this long to put together Mary Cleere Haran Sings Doris Day, her entertaining and informative tribute to the legendary Hollywood star, now at Feinstein’s at the Regency.
But as the always forthright Haran tells the audience, she put off this particular project because “I didn’t think I could cut it vocally.” She has a point — the golden-voiced Day is a lot for any singer to live up to, and Haran’s huskier timbre isn’t necessarily Day’s equal. But the two share a non-saccharine sweetness and a fierce commitment to a song’s lyrics — not to mention similar tastes in husbands — that make them a very good match.
Haran helped put together a 1991 PBS documentary on the star, Doris Day: A Sentimental Journey, and she shares a great deal of what she learned about Day’s unhappy personal life (including a horrifying childhood accident and her four failed marriages) as well as touching stories about her personal interactions with Day, all of which help lift this show above your standard cabaret fare.
The vocalizing is pretty darn good too! Given Haran’s prior specialization in the songs of Rodgers & Hart, it’s no surprise that her renditions of “Little Girl Blue” (which Day sang in the film version of Jumbo) and the lesser-known “Why Can’t I” are among the show’s highlights.
She also scores with a beautiful take on “Sentimental Journey,” (which practically launched Day’s career) and a haunting medley of “Toyland” and the ultra-catchy “Que Sera Sera,” which Day so memorably sang in Alfred Hitchock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much.
One of the show’s best sections is devoted to Haran’s recollection of her initial viewing of Love Me or Leave Me, the 1955 film in which Day brilliantly played 1920s torch singer Ruth Etting, and which led Haran to her first true appreciation of Day’s talents.
Unfortunately, Haran doesn’t tackle the title tune, but fans can content themselves with two of the film’s other numbers, a full-bodied “Shaking the Blues Away,” and a lovely “I’ll Never Stop Loving You.”
And much like Mary Cleere Haran, many of us will never stop loving Doris Day.