Mrs. Avis Can Sing

By Rex Reed, New York Observer | May 22, 2000

At the FireBird Cafe, what’s left of cafe society is cramming in tight as the Russian caviar to see glamorous chanteuse Yanna Avis conduct a guided tour through a landscape of love that roams sensually from the boîtes of Edith Piaf’s Paris to the cellars of Marlene Dietrich’s Berlin. Not since I first heard luscious Hildegard Knef in a smoky dive in Berlin have I seen so entrancing and svelte a femme fatale. Singing “Just a Gigolo” with one sequined leg propped on a stool and her haute couture derrière planted on top of the grand piano, it is clear that if this woman has ever eaten a Hershey bar it would have made headlines.

Born in France of Romanian descent, she sings sultry torch songs with equal ease in French, German, Spanish and, of course, English, but she’s full of surprises, too. Cole Porter’s seldom-heard “Ca C’est L’amour” is a tantalizing centerpiece, but she picks up the pieces and the tempo on Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael’s “How Little We Know” and Ervin Drake’s “The Friendliest Thing Two People Can Do” with just the right amount of sexy vibrato on the vowels. “Ten Cents a Dance” and “Guess Who I Saw Today” capture two more aspects of love lost, lamented and longed for, and Lucienne Boyer’s famous “Parlez-Moi D’amour” is a perfect encore.

Because she’s the wife of rent-a-car mogul Warren Avis, this underrated singer has been unjustly ignored by the press, but her polished new act, directed by the talented, Tony-winning Thommie Walsh, is the result of talent and hard work, proving there’s more to Yanna Avis than charm, money and a charge account at Elizabeth Arden.

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