Moonlighting from her role as prison matron Mama Morton in “Chicago” at Broadway’s Ambassador Theater, Roz Ryan spends her Monday nights off doing a cabaret turn at the Opia Supper Club.
Ryan is a big gal with a big voice. She is a Broadway belter of the first order, blending blues and gospel roots with a richly flavored sense of sophistication and restraint.
Ryan has a grand, blowsy sense of humor and creates a warm bond with her aud. Her focused, well-balanced repertoire includes Stephen Sondheim’s chummy “Old Friends” — bolstered by a sassy bite — and Charles Aznavour’s reflective “Yesterday When I Was Young.”
Composer Billy Strayhorn was only 16 when he penned the words and music to “Lush Life,” the complex reflection of ultimate loneliness. Ryan claims it took her 20 years to figure out what the song meant, and “when I found out, I got rid of my husband!” She plumbs the depths of its dark, probing narrative. She also gets the lyric right for a change, as so often one hears “distant gay traces” instead of the intended, inspired use of “distingue.”
Torching is the order of the evening with the Harold Arlen/Ira Gershwin number “The Man That Got Away.” Ryan quickly redeems the gloom of unrequited love with Cy Coleman’s “The Best Is Yet to Come” before heralding a new look at life with the rhythmic command to take “All of Me.”
The 53-year-old chanteuse is accompanied by pianist-composer Shelton Becton, who has been her musical director for a quarter-century, since they worked together at the legendary theatrical boite Ted Hook’s Backstage. He brings an admirable solidity to Ryan’s performance. However, while drummer Steve Singer is full of good design and flourish, he often overpowers the vocals.
Wind-up is an emotionally charged performance of Patti Austin’s “Love Me by Name,” a knockout finale that brought a cheering capacity aud to their feet. To echo Mama Morton, “Mama’s good for you!”