When Sandy Stewart sings, she can make you laugh, make you cry and make you think. In her 10-day turn at the venerable Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel, Stewart is joined by her son, pianist Bill Charlap, and the repertoire includes a few Broadway nuggets by Stewart’s late husband, composer Moose Charlap.
Stewart sings with warming assurance and a kind of reflective wistfulness that draws the listener ever so close to her heart. Such familiar evergreens as Cole Porter’s “Ev’rytime We Say Goodbye” and “I Concentrate on You,” along with the Gershwins’ “I’ve Got a Crush on You,” become more than standard cabaret repertoire. With the exquisite accompaniment of her son, the melodies boast an airy reverence, and the lyrics reach out with a telling, torchy truth.
The 1965 Gotham tuner “Kelly,” with music by Moose Charlap and lyrics by Eddie Lawrence, folded after a single performance at the Broadhurst Theatre. Its legacy is a score that contained the poetically reflective “I’ll Never Go There Anymore.” Stewart’s lush and reverent reading, reflects an intense and perhaps, personal involvement. She projects a total commitment to mood and melody.
Gathering the varied hues of “My Coloring Book,” a 1963 chart topper by Fred Ebb and John Kander, Stewart quipped, “It was their first hit and my last!”
Charlap’s solo turn finds Alec Wilder’s “While We’re Young” layered with many lofty and lyrical ideas, followed by Jerome Kern’s “The Way You Look Tonight,” which was flooded with scampering tempo changes. On the occasion of Richard Rodgers’ 101st birthday, Charlap played a supremely poetic “Blue Room,” a lovely musical portrait of moods and emotions.
Charlap’s playing recalls the fertile imagination of Bill Evans, nicely complemented by his own inventiveness, a comforting sense of pace and a foot-tapping rhythmic suppleness.