Review: ‘Jason Graae: An Evening of Self-Indulgence … The Sequel’

Jason Graae raises versatility to new heights. He's a comic, a character actor and a balladeer with a gift for bringing out subtleties in a lyric. He's so skilled in all capacities that you occasionally wish he'd linger on one specialty a little longer. The ultimate tribute to his talent is a feeling, by show's end, that the evening has just begun.

Jason Graae raises versatility to new heights. He’s a comic, a character actor and a balladeer with a gift for bringing out subtleties in a lyric. He’s so skilled in all capacities that you occasionally wish he’d linger on one specialty a little longer. The ultimate tribute to his talent is a feeling, by show’s end, that the evening has just begun.

Graae kicks things off with his well-known manic energy, socking across Kander & Ebb’s “Wilkommen” from “Cabaret.” Interspersed with full-throated belting are a series of riotous routines involving missed light and sound cues and mock exasperation that pianist Gerald Sternbach is on the phone during the act and ignoring him. Sternbach proves a likable straight man to Graae’s endearing lunacy.

The madness gives way to sensitivity when Graae sings Jerry Herman’s “It Only Takes a Moment” from “Hello, Dolly!” Accompanied by a sparse, discreetly supportive piano, he projects romantic intensity with the line, “I held her for an instant,” then resembles a wistful choir boy when he sings “a whole life long.”

Soft yearning yields to raucous burlesque when Graae teases members of the audience, a series of sexual one-liners that provide a perfect lead-in for one of the evening’s best numbers, Rodgers & Hart’s “You Took Advantage of Me.” It’s sexuality with a wink and a poker face.

There’s a strong emphasis on humor, so that the show’s structure feels more like a comedy act with music than the other way around. But the comedy is consistently on target, particularly Graae’s anecdote about a devoted fan who loved him “as Rhoda’s husband,” confusing him with David Groh. His boyishly wounded response, and the idea that the fan could think of him as 65, is a high spot.

Jason Graae: An Evening of Self-Indulgence … The Sequel

Cinegrill; 120 seats; $15 top

Production

Presented inhouse. Musical director, Gerald Sternbach; Director, Heather Lee. Opened, reviewed Aug. 28, 2001; closed Sept. 2, 2001.
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