New York used to be a swinging town after dark. Now it’s just lonely. After dessert is served, the cafes close. After the boring, obligatory standing ovations that end every show in town whether it’s any good or not, the theaters empty and the audience heads home. Back in the day, you could head for a midnight show at any nightclub in Midtown. Now everyone is in bed by 11, watching the news and setting the alarm. New York gets more like L.A. every day, where, as the great Shirley Booth used to say, “No matter how boring it gets during the day … there sure ain’t nothin’ to do at night.”
Tonight and Friday at 10:45 PM, Yanna Avis plays the last of her shows this month in the Café Carlyle’s Second Act series of late night performances. The lanky Paris-born chanteuse, best-known to New Yorkers, perhaps, as the widow of Warren Avis of the rent-a-car Avises, tries harder even though she really doesn’t have to. Her sporadic performances around New York have attracted a loyal fan base of stars and sophisticates, including Liza Minnelli and Rex Reed (shown with Avis at a performance earlier this month). They’re lured in by her smokey vocalizations of great cabaret tunes by the likes of Cole Porter, Kurt Weill, Michel Legrand, Cy Coleman and more.
By David Patrick Columbia, New York Social Diary | May 13, 2013
“Yanna performs in the European tradition of the chanteuse. Neither Marlene Dietrich (although along those lines) nor Piaf, Yanna nevertheless brings their sentiments and emotional intimacy, with her style, to her songs. Her show is for You.
I’ve seen her perform several times. Her repertoire mingles American Songbook with European songs, some of which we know and all of which we get the gist of even if we don’t understand a word. (Sometimes it’s better if you have a good imagination.) Her theme — which is recurring — is unabashedly sentimental to the American ear, yet sophisticated and effecting. And kind.
This new show which she calls “In Love With Love,” runs for about an hour, and is her best yet. She takes us easily from Vernon Duke’s classic “Taking a Chance on Love” (introduced by Ethel Waters) into Bizet’s “Carmen” and on to Richard Adler and Jerry Ross’ “Whatever Lola Wants (Lola gets)…” backed a great group of musicians and musical director David Shenton at the piano. It features Cole Porter, Larry Hart, Georges Bizet, Adler and Ross, Vernon Duke, Charles Aznavour, Michel LeGrand, Mintinguett and more.
“Yanna Avis makes her Café Carlyle debut with a new show, titled In Love with Love which will feature her usual sophisticated, European cabaret. The program will be multi-lingual from a variety of influences including Cole Porter, Kurt Weill, Friedrich Hollander and other classics. In Love with Love plays through May 16, Thursdays and Fridays at 10:45 p.m. with musical director David Shenton at the piano…”
“Well, I’ve been told it’s husky,” Yanna Avis says, settling into her persimmon wraparound sofa, the centerpiece of the drawing room of her apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side that overlooks Central Park. “I don’t know how I feel about it, but I guess it’s a good thing?” Avis’ voice is husky. It’s textured and smoky, harkening back to the quality of lounge singers of yore who sucked down cigarettes between sets.
“I love the music of the Thirties and Forties, the glamour of it,” she says. “I try to get that glamour into my act.”
Avis has been doing cabaret since 1992, when she made her debut at Eighty-Eight’s in Greenwich Village, and she’s kept things local since then. “I’ve covered almost every spot in New York, from downtown to all the way uptown,” she says. “And now I’ll be performing on the next block.”
Known for her chic and sultry cabaret performances and her “smoky” voice, her sophistication comes from a worldly life. She sings in French, English, Spanish, Italian and German and has toured widely, including performances at Maxim’s in Paris, the Spoleto Festival in Italy, The Jermyn Street Theatre in London, as well as in New York’s Feinstein’s at the Regency, The Metropolitan Room, The Supper Club’s King Kong Room and The Firebird among other venues.
“In my line of work I come across many women who enchant me with what they look like, where they’ve come from and the stories they can tell. What is sometimes rare and exciting, however, is wondering, “Where is she going? What will she achieve? What makes her shine?”
I had the pleasure many years ago of meeting cabaret singer Yanna Avis and although there have been many opportunities to lose communication, I just couldn’t let her go. She is strikingly beautiful, well-traveled and a most gracious hostess. So why would a woman with all of this continue to work so hard on her cabaret career? What drives this woman to open new doors and invite people into her world with a song and a moment? …”