Actor-director James Naughton has returned to the Cafe Carlyle in his role as crooner. With his rich, velvety voice, he loses little time in setting a mellow mood and establishing an easygoing rapport with the aud. While the level of excitement is tame, the Broadway baritone offers a debonair hour of song.
Naughton followed his Tony-winning performance as Billy Flynn in the revival of “Chicago” with his one-man songfest “Street of Dreams.” Now he presents a new bag of tunes, ranging from Tom Waits and Randy Newman to Cy Coleman and Richard Rodgers.
Before Frank Loesser came to Broadway he penned songs for several films, collaborating with a mere 93 lyricists and composers. From that period, Naughton sings “The Lady’s in Love With You” (later retitled “Rhythm Romance”), with lyrics by Burton Lane, introduced by Bob Hope in 1939’s “Some Like It Hot.” It served as an unspoken tribute to the century-old comedian.
Naughton sings Oscar Levant’s haunting “Blame It on My Youth” and that plaintive bit of nostalgia, “These Foolish Things,” latter framed by the cuddling tenor sax of Garry Niewood. Recalling a high school turn as Emile De Becque, Naughton croons “Some Enchanted Evening.” The moment brings to mind the golden era of Broadway romanticism. At some perfs, Naughton adds “Here’s That Rainy Day,” a hit song from a Broadway flop.
Few cabaret performers can get away without a hip musical observation from the pen of Dave Frishberg, and Naughton takes a tandem turn with “You Would Rather Have the Blues” and “I Wanna Be a Sideman.” The latter is a bow to musicians — one with which Rosemary Clooney took flight in her last club and concert engagements. Clooney’s former musical director, John Oddo, provides Naughton with a comfortable cushion, adding all the necessary spunk and drive.
For a witty encore, Naughton spins George Shearing’s parody of Cole Porter’s “You’re the Top,” redubbed “You’re the Pits,” with an irreverent serving of “a wilted salad and a Lloyd Webber ballad!”