In his Oak Room debut, Broadway baritone Tom Wopat sauntered into the historic cabaret corner singing the unaccompanied reflection “Last Night When We Were Young,” penned by Harold Arlen and lyricist E.Y. “Yip” Harburg. He lost little time creating a romantic setting that spans several decades, from the Gershwins’ “But Not for Me” to the ardent Beatles confessional “And I Love Her.” The Tony-nominated stage star (“A Catered Affair”) and TV vet possesses a robust voice; his warm, informal rapport with the audience made for a genial, reflective hour of song.
Under the banner “Love Swings,” all the joys and sorrows of romance are revealed. Wopat’s expansive repertoire bridges the gap between Broadway and Hollywood; he even rolls up his sleeves, picks up a guitar and serenades with some rural down-home tunes, the likes of which are rarely heard in this stately venue.
From Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” to Cole Porter’s only cowboy tune, “Don’t Fence Me In,” Wopat brought a playful ruggedness to his song fest, nicely complemented by David Finck’s adventurous bass solo. He also displayed some sly tongue-in-cheek wit with a flirtatious “What a Little Moonlight Can Do,” performed at a racing tempo; the naughty “Makin’ Whoopee”; and Dave Frishberg’s salty “You Would Rather Have the Blues.”
But holding onto his roots as a Broadway belter of the first order, Wopat flexed his muscles for the drifter’s travelogue “A New Town Is a Blue Town,” from “The Pajama Game,” and a surprising bit of sidewalk grit with the Leonard Bernstein-Stephen Sondheim turf hymn “Jet Song.”
Wopat left his mark in the recent revival of “Annie Get Your Gun,” picking up the legacy of such sturdy baritones as Howard Keel, John Raitt and Alfred Drake. The singer has the luxury of top-flight trio accompaniment under the musical direction of pianist Tedd Firth and the tasty accents of Bob Malach’s tenor sax.