The combination of talent and personality that propelled Tyne Daly from a successful television career to Broadway stardom translates especially well to the nightclub arena. The actress makes a crowd-pleasing cabaret debut with the highly entertaining and well-routined “Songs” at Feinstein’s. Daly has never been known for her singing; she won her Tony Award in the 1989 revival of “Gypsy” despite sometimes uneven vocal qualities. Twenty years later, she does considerably better. While no rival to Barbara Cook, Daly breezes through 18 songs with ease.
After the inevitable “Some People” opener, she charms the audience with the vintage George M. Cohan number “Life’s a Funny Proposition,” countered with the contemporary “Crayola,” by Kristin Andreasson and Megan Downes. Daly then goes back to the “Ziegfeld Follies of 1912” for the naughtily suggestive “Row, Row, Row.”
Thesp bantered comfortably on opening night with the friendly and supportive crowd (with “Cagney and Lacey” co-star Sharon Gless and Rosie O’Donnell prominently placed ringside). Personal warmth and humor were abundant. Despite some first-night nerves, Daly seemed right at home in the Park Avenue nitery (with credit no doubt due to musical director John McDaniel and stage director David Galligan). McDaniel’s band is strong, with some especially nice contributions from Peter Sachon on cello and Rick Heckman on winds (and penny-whistle).
It’s in the latter half of the 70-minute set that Daly raises the stakes and triumphs. She does a touching and poignant job with “Killing Time,” an obscure Jule Styne-Carolyn Leigh song somewhat in the “Ladies Who Lunch” vein. She munches her way through “Captain Hook’s Waltz” from “Peter Pan” and gives a ferocious and chilling rendition of the Weill-Brecht-Blitzstein “Pirate Jenny,” in which her acting talents are at the forefront.
Daly then launches into “Fifty Percent” from “Ballroom,” reprising a role she played exceptionally well in a 1992 Long Beach, Calif., production, and which today would make a perfect vehicle for her.