A Season Icy and Warm

Deneuve féted, McCardle rocks, and Danny’s the divo

On March 10, rumors were flying at the chic Daniel cocktail party for Catherine Deneuve, honored by the French Institute/Alliance Francaise.

I recalled the publicist who called her “Diva Deconstructed,” for her accident-prone ways during public appearances—forever tripping, falling out of cars and getting her hand caught in doors. I’ve always had a soft spot for her since my Off-Broadway debut a zillion years ago, playing an NYU film student obsessed with her in “A Mass Murder in the Balcony of the Old Ritz-Rialto.”

So we awaited her arrival with bated breath. When she appeared, she took one look at the paparazzi-filled reception room, and bolted for the side bar, where she sensibly ensconced herself on a sofa with a cigarette and champagne in hand. She looked divine, in a simple, black crepe, wool Yves St. Laurent sheath, vintage Roger Vivier pumps and perfect shortish hair, the most underdressed woman in a sea of Palm Beach-types dripping glitz.

I remarked upon her character in her new Andre Téchiné film, “Le temps qui changent,” the workaholic mother of a gay son she doesn’t communicate with, as being somewhat cold, and she perversely replied, “You think so? I didn’t find her that way at all.”

Startled, I continued, “You yourself have had this icy image in your career, like Grace Kelly. Is that really you?”

“Sometimes. Like when I walk into a room that’s filled with photographers.” “You’ve been a star for so many years,” I persisted. “Aren’t you used to that?

“Let’s say that I am used to it, but I never like it.”

I mentioned her wardrobe in the film, which looked to me like retro St. Laurent.

“Certainly not! But I see Yves often and he is very well. You are wearing Yves? You look very chic.”

She told me her next film is Valérie Lemercier’s “Palais Royal,” “in which I play a queen.”

“A real queen?” I asked.

I later did some research and found that Deneuve will play “Eugenia, the queen of an imaginary European country.”

Charm of a far more accessible type was evinced in spades at Andrea McArdle’s Joe’s Pub engagement on March 13. Going onstage bearing a scrub brush and pail, a la her signature “Little Orphan Annie” role, she immediately won over her sold-out crowd of dedicated fans with “NYC” and her supremely ingratiating personality. What followed was a music lover’s wet dream of hearing her stunning, perfectly pitched voice on a delicious selection of classic songs.

McArdle did a seductively slow and jazzy rendition of Sondheim’s “You Could Drive a Person Crazy,” then smirked and said, “Good going, McArdle,” after slipping into the lyrics of “Losing My Mind.” Who cared? Her burnished alto was heaven in the best version of this number I’ve heard since Barbara Cook’s. And then, stating that she spent a lot of time touring America’s heartland, “where disco never died,” she did an utterly ravishing take on that Odyssey classic, “Native New Yorker,” replete with graceful Travolta-esque moves and spinning mirrored ball.

McArdle finished with “Tomorrow,” natch, and then, reminding us that she’d played Judy Garland at age 14 in “Rainbow,” encored with “Over the Rainbow.” There wasn’t a dry seat in the house.

Backed by a percolating eight-piece band—with the eloquent Conal Fowkes on piano—Aiello delivered a warmly engaging show, obviously fulfilling a lifelong dream to be a lounge singer along the lines of the Rat Pack, whom he fully evoked with his dark glasses and suave, seigneurial manner.

His love for the Great American Songbook and its composers came through in tasty renditions of “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down,” “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To,” and, naturally, “One for My Baby.” “Besame Mucho” thrilled the crowd, which included violinist Joshua Bell and music producer, Phil Ramone, who worked on the Bobby Darrin film, “Beyond the Sea.” Aiello’s version of this Charles Trenet/Jack Lawrence winner had the room rocking, and, minutes later, with tears spontaneously pouring down his face, he touched all our hearts with “The Curtain Falls,” sung directly to Joe Franklin, whom he faithfully credited with giving him his first break in the business.

I don’t think there was a better year for Broadway songs than 1929, something clearly proved by Scott Siegel’s latest “Broadway By the Year,” performed at Town Hall on March 7.

Presaging the Wall Street crash of 1929 and written by such as Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, Noel Coward, Vincent Youmans, Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein and Howard Dietz, the ballads were dark and haunting—“What is This Thing Called Love,” “More than You Know,” “If Love Were All,” “Why Was I Born,” “You Don’t Know Paree,” “You Do Something to Me,” and that ultimate torch song, “Moanin’ Low.”

Noah Racey—get him a show, now!—once more outdid Fred Astaire with a snappily sung and danced “I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plan.” Leslie Anderson made sharply incisive work of “Can’t We Be Friends” (the gay anthem of unrequited love). “Find Me a Primitive Man” was worked by Emily Skinner to utter filth. And, clad in an appropriately lavender blazer, Bryan Batt fetchingly crooned the song he was born for, Cole Porter’s “I’m a Gigolo”: “As I’m slightly undersexed/You will always find me next/To some dowager who’s wealthy rather than passionate.”

Blame it on my Hawaiian upbringing, but I happen to love the music of the Beach Boys. Hal Ashby’s wonderful “Shampoo” was canny in its use of it, to perfectly set the 1969 mood for that film, but the creators of “Good Vibrations” haven’t a clue as to how to make it resonate now.

The most obvious talent was displayed by Titus Burgess, who made a lovely thing of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” As the one major black cast member, he might have been given the song, “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times,” as a solo spot, if only to suggest the civil rights movement occurring at the same time these tunes were gestating, and lend the show at least a semblance of depth.

But no! The song is featured as but one more to be checked off of a senseless laundry list of Brian Wilson’s oeuvre. I sat there, thinking up a better book for the music, running over possibilities like having the characters in old age makeup at the beginning, recalling halcyon youthful days, anything but the very stale cheese cavorting on the stage of the Eugene O’Neill.

Contact David Noh at Inthenoh@aol.com.

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