Steve Ross exemplifies style and grace like few other people, and he displayed it before a full house last night at the Kranzberg Arts Center. He will repeat tonight (Saturday). The apparently ageless cabaret singer is in an "out-of-town" run with his new show, "Rhythm and Romance," which is scheduled to open at the Algonquin in New York in mid-January.
So it was opening night, with some new material and some that was reworked from his earlier cabaret shows. There were a few missed notes and a few missed lyrics, but it was, in the Ross tradition, an satisfying evening of entertainment. Most of the songs came from a couple of Ross favorites, Noel Coward and Cole Porter, a pair of writers who wove risque lyrics into their songs with the greatest of ease. Coward's "Bar on the Piccolo Marina" and "Have Some Madeira, M'Dear," are delightful examples.
Ross' exemplary diction and phrasing, singing with a raised eyebrow, as it were, are perfectly suited to Coward, who viewed the world with a jaundiced eye. "And Her Mother Came, Too," is a perfect example, and on a more serious note, "Sail Away" could almost be an autobiographical song of loneliness.
Porter was well-represented by "It's De-Lovely" and "Just One of Those Things," and Ross also scored with the Porter ballads, "Down in the Depths (on the 90th Floor)" and "I Am in Love."
As always, Ross, definitely dapper in his dark green dinner jacket, worked his own touches into music and lyrics, and he offered one number, not normally considered a cabaret song but a lovely, winsome tale of memory and loss, "Mira," in which a young woman mourns the fact she left the small town where "everybody knew my name." It's from a 1961 musical, "Carnival!" written by Bob Merrill and sung by Anna Maria Alberghetti; the show is also noteworthy because it was Jerry Orbach's first major Broadway role.
Ross closed with a piano piece that offered a medley of songs made famous by Edith Piaf, returned with an encore, an effective version of "For All We Know."