Musical comedy veteran Rachel York came to Feinstein’s for a two-night stint that amply showcased her varied talents. York scores at almost every turn, leading one to suspect she’ll soon be back in one of the major rooms with a full booking.
York is a young veteran whom theatergoers may have a difficult time placing. She arrived 18 years ago as the sultry teenaged seductress in Cy Coleman’s “City of Angels.” Subsequent roles have ranged from musical comedy (“Victor/Victoria”) to operetta (“The Scarlet Pimpernel”), mega-musical (“Les Miserables”) and musical drama (“Dessa Rose”).
Her most visible stint, perhaps, was playing Lucille Ball in the 2003 TV movie “Lucy.” She is just in from the road, where she was a reportedly admirable Guinevere supporting an especially wobbly Arthur in “Camelot.”
York comes out like a firecracker with “Don’t Rain on My Parade”; reprises her “City of Angels” song “Lost and Found”; scats through the rare Ella Fitzgerald tune “Blue Lou” (by Irving Mills and Edgar Sampson); and follows up with a touching and effective “I Dreamed a Dream,” with tears rolling down her cheeks.
And that’s just for starters: The singer is also a fine mimic. This comes to the fore near closing, when York relates a wickedly funny anecdote about Liza Minnelli replacing Julie Andrews in the “Victor/Victoria” days. As she relates the tale of what she calls “The Infamous Wednesday Matinee,” she slips between Andrews, Tony Roberts and Minnelli. Who ever thought that a Roberts impersonation could garner belly laughs? It does here, capping the tale.
This is immediately preceded by another winner. You might think you don’t need to hear another Burt Bacharach medley, but York whips hers into a wonderfully entertaining and extremely funny souffle of song snatches. One tune barely establishes itself before she’s on to the next, the whole thing dressed in so many different voices that the effect is almost dizzying — and at the same time a testament to the richness and scope of the Bacharach songbook.
York is working without a band, which doesn’t much matter because musical director Eugene Gwozdz provides a full and cheerful accompaniment (with some especially nice playing on “Blue Lou” and “Fly Me to the Moon”).
Early part of the act could use a little tending, as we get almost too much high-powered singing without any sense of the singer’s pleasing personality till midway. But York makes a most welcome nitery debut at Feinstein’s.