Perched atop the grand piano in her return to Feinstein’s at Loews Regency, Mary Cleere Haran proclaimed her ardent appreciation of song lyrics and especially those written between the two world wars, when “wit, charm and romance were in fashion.” In her program “I Love Lyrics,” the glamorous diva prefaced her repertoire by accenting both the power of words in songs and the intrinsic subtlety so deftly harbored therein. Haran’s text book is the voluminous tome “Reading Lyrics,” a collection compiled by Robert Gottlieb and Robert Kimball, published eight years ago.
The lady boasts a stage presence that is genuinely warm and radiant, and she creates a real bond with her audience, playfully expressed by Dorothy Fields’ “sexually assertive” lyrics for Jerome Kern’s “A Fine Romance.” In a wonderfully rare nod to legendary hoofer Bill Robinson, Haran revived the Kern-Fields “Bojangles of Harlem,” and she invests the song with a dancer’s thrust and swagger without taking a step.
Haran began with a breathlessly delicious take on Cole Porter’s “It’s De-Lovely,” accenting Porter’s “deveen” sense of humor and his masterful wordplay. From the Irving Berlin canon came a low down and hot “Pack Up Your Sins and Go to the Devil” a raucous irreverent descent to Hades where “Satan is waitin’ with his jazz band.”
The interlocking narrative Haran offers is historically informative and colorfully anecdotal. Haran revealed her favorite lyricist to be Lorenz Hart, making “Isn’t It Romantic?” the program’s centerpiece.