Following a decade of self-imposed exile in Canada to raise a family, Sara Zahn has returned to the Gotham cabaret scene with a bountiful array of Broadway and Holly-wood tunes. Lamenting that old haunts like Rainbow & Stars, Michael’s Pub and the Russian Tea Room have long since shuttered, she has settled into Helen’s (formerly Judy’s) in Chelsea for five weekends.
In this stand the singer focuses on material from previous turns, with a generous potpourri of words and music by Sammy Cahn, Cy Coleman and Jule Styne.
Zahn’s most moving bounty is the legacy of Carolyn Leigh. Lyricist Leigh, who died in 1983, left her secretarial job to pen pop hits and words for Broadway. Zahn reveals the potency and cradled tenderness of “When Jeremiah Can Be With Me.” Leigh’s last lyric was “Killing Time,” set to a Styne melody. It’s a torcher relentlessly cutting in its direct path to the heart.
On the bright side is “Put ’em in a Box (Tie ’em With a Ribbon),” the old Doris Day tune that rejected romance (sung in film debut “Romance on the High Seas”), and the jaunty Broadway tune “Walking Happy.”
Zahn has a bright, clear soprano range, balanced by a capacity to belt without pushing to the extreme. She’s audience-friendly in a natural, uncloying way.
As a benedictory on the eve of the presidential election, Zahn sang “Anyone Who Loves,” a late lyric by Alan Jay Lerner, written with Charles Strouse for “Dance a Little Closer.” “We’re only living by the hour/while the sages with the power/play their game of peace and war.” It was a potent postlude.
The diva is accompanied by her husband, Allan Kashkin, whose assured piano provides strength and flourish without overwhelming the nuanced delicacy of her interpretation.