Rhythm and Romance
An entertainment by Steve Ross with songs by Ted Koehler & Jimmy McHugh, Michael Flanders & Donald Swann, John Kander & Fred Ebb, Richard Rodgers & Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Kern & Oscar Hammerstein II, Frank Loesser, Billy Hill, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart, Noël Coward, Ivor Novello & Peter Dion Titheradge, Jerome Kern & Dorothy Fields, George & Ira Gershwin, Eric Maschwitz, Jack Strachey & Harry Link, Wayne Moore, Jacques Brel, Mort Shuman & Eric Blau, and Edith Piaf
Steve Ross (singer & pianio)
Reviewed by: Michael Darvell
Reviewed: 15 February, 2011
Venue: The Pheasantry, London
Steve Ross, the doyen of cabaret artists, arrived at The Pheasantry in Chelsea the night after St Valentine’s Day. In the week in which we remember the patron saint of lovers everywhere, Ross presents his latest one-man show, “Rhythm & Romance”, which is devoted to various aspects of falling in love as seen through the eyes, the words and the music of popular songsmiths. Ross is the complete embodiment of the Great American Songbook and, also, he has long enjoyed singing and playing the music of UK masters of the popular song. He therefore calls his show a Transatlantic Songbook.
Steve Ross begins his evening of love-songs with a rare Ted Koehler/Jimmy McHugh number ‘Spreadin’ rhythm around’ which was a hit for Billie Holiday way back when. He couples it with a few bars of Cole Porter’s ‘I got rhythm’. Then, having spoken-up for the rhythm section, he falls back on romance if dubiously: Michael Flanders & Donald Swann’s ‘Have some Madeira m’dear’, a tale of unbridled lust in which some old rogue tries to seduce a young woman with a glass or three of sweet wine. Kander & Ebb’s ‘Married’ from “Cabaret” looks on the brighter side of love which is dashed to pieces as Steve segues into Sondheim’s lyrics for ‘We’re gonna be all right’, written with Richard Rodgers for the show “Do I Hear a Waltz?”. This is a pretty jaded view of love and marriage (“Sometimes she smokes in bed / Sometimes he’s homosexual / But why be vicious – they keep it out of sight…”). The reverse of the marriage coin comes with ‘The folks who live on the hill’, Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s positive view of a long-term marriage, definitively recorded by Peggy Lee. A relative rarity ‘My heart is so full of love’ from Frank Loesser’s show “The Most Happy Fella” is followed by Billy Hill’s ‘The glory of love’, a song on which Bette Midler has put her own stamp.
Steve Ross is never one to ignore the songs of Cole Porter. Indeed most of his shows include something by the great composer-lyricist. Here we have an affecting medley of ‘I am in love’, ‘Down in the depths (on the 90th floor)’and ‘Just one of those things’ with the priceless lyric that introduced us to the evocative image of “a trip to the moon on gossamer wings”. How romantic is that? This is followed by one of Cole’s superbly witty lyrics about all the courageous animals that provide the ladies with furry items to wear, in ‘’Where would you get your coat?’ (“If the dear little rabbits weren’t so bourgeois in their habits, / Where would you get your coat?”).
Back to the heartache of unrequited love which was real in the case of lyricist Lorenz Hart (Steve calls him “the bard of the bittersweet”) who never found a satisfactory partner but wrote sublimely about lost love in ‘I still believe in you’, ‘Falling in love with love’, ‘Glad to be unhappy’ and ‘You took advantage of me’. A medley of Noël Coward songs includes ‘A bar on the Piccola Marina’, in which a widow hits the love trail,‘Time will tell’, ‘I’ll follow your secret heart’ and ‘I’ll see you again’, which are followed by Ivor Novello and Peter Dion Titheradge’s hilarious ‘And her mother comes too’, a funny sad song about how a would-be romantic cannot shake off his girlfriend’s family when he just wants them to be alone.
With some more Jerome Kern, George & Ira Gershwin, Eric Maschwitz and others, Steve Ross presents a rounded picture of how we can say it with music. He ends with Jacques Brel’s ‘Fanette’ and a piano medley of Edith Piaf hits. For an encore it’s the title song and Rodgers & Hart’s ‘My romance’, the epitome of the love-song with the final refrain of “My romance / Doesn’t need a thing but you”. And you don’t need a thing except Steve Ross when it comes to civilised evening entertainment. Don’t miss!
- Rhythm and Romance is at the Pheasantry, 152-154 Kings Road, Chelsea, London SW3 until Saturday 19 February 2011, nightly at 8 p.m., doors open at 7
- Tickets: 08456 027 017
- Pizza Express Live