Jason Graae, who starred on Broadway in “Falsettos” and appeared as Harry Houdini in the Shubert Theatre production of “Ragtime,” is a creature of extremes. He bursts onto the Cinegrill stage with explosive, manic energy and hits so many physical and emotional highs that you wonder if he’s capable of a soft, mellow moment. Then, without warning, he turns down the motor and sings with quiet sensitivity, and you become aware of his extraordinary range.
In his more dominant role of inspired, uninhibited clown, Graae opens with the tune “I Want to be Rich, Famous and Powerful.” He belts out a litany of egotistical, self-oriented ambitions and still makes the song a humorous, ingratiating number everyone can identify with.
Jason Graae is a superb comic, doing rib-tickling takeoffs on Tallulah Bankhead, Al Jolson, Bobby Darin, Johnny Mathis and Mandy Patinkin, which showcase his versatility. If his act feels slightly unbalanced, it’s because we want more of that magnificent voice, singing a few additional classic songs truly worthy of his talent.
After toying around with “I’d Be Surprisingly Good for You” from “Evita,” he tackles a Barbra Streisand standard, “She Touched Me,” from the short-lived Broadway musical, “drat! the cat!” The song projects romance and a sense of growing wonder at the discovery of love, and Graae’s expressive baritone captures those feelings beautifully.
Graae’s program includes works by Cole Porter’s (the suggestive “50 Million Frenchmen”), Leonard Bernstein/Comden and Green (“Wrong Note Rag”) and a memorable new piece written by his musical director, Gerry Sternbach: “Something That I Wanted You to Know.” Backed by Sternbach’s crisp, confident piano, Graae does a moving and masterful job. He’s equally winning on “I Would Have Been Wonderful,” from “Annie Warbucks,” Strouse and Charnin’s ill-fated sequel to “Annie.”
And he uses his own history to his advantage: his rendition of William Finn’s ballad “What More Can I Say” from “Falsettos” is the evening’s high point.