The audience that crowded into the Grand Salon at La Goulue had the best bargain in NYC last night. Their eyes, ears, and taste buds spent a night in Paris for the cost of a pre-fixe dinner and music charge. Yanna Avis created an evening of authentic French Cabaret that brings you to the glamorous place and time when the likes of Cole Porter and other artistic Americans lived in Paris. You didn’t have to speak French to enjoy her show, but it seemed that most everyone in the room did, as they joined in when Yanna sang PADAM, PADAM, PADAM, and other popular Chansons. I don’t think most of Yanna Avis’s sophisticated and well dressed fans needed this special price for the experience as many of them have seen her perform in Europe as well.
If a continental, smoky chanteuse comes to mind, then Yanna Avis makes a serious impression. A noted stage and television French actress before she came to the United States, this Titian-tressed chanteuse knows how to land a baby grand with style; her sets, peppered with French, English, Spanish, Italian and German songs sizzle in any time zone. Her unique style of international cabaret has made her a must-see in New York’s most prestigious rooms.
At the invitation of maestro Gian Carlo Menotti, she has performed at Italy’s famed Spoleto Music Festival after Menotti heard her album “Easy Come, Easy Go.” She was the first cabaret performer invited to the legendary festival, and after overwhelming success was asked to return to perform at the “Cafe Chantant” on the Piazza.
On the foreign scene, she has performed in London at the Jermyn Street Theatre and in Mexico City. Ms. Avis was trained at the National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts in Paris and graduated with a second prize in tragedy. She performed in various productions both classical and contemporary, including John Guare’s “House of Blue Leaves ” and “Boeing-Boeing”, a big Broadway hit this season, and appeared in films and plays on F
On the foreign scene, she has performed in London at the Jermyn Street Theatre and in Mexico City.
Ten days ago, Yanna performed in cabaret in the back room at La Goulue on 61st and Madison. It was the debut for La Goulue as a cabaret venue, and it was Yanna’s first cabaret appearance this year.
Yanna grew up in Paris. She likes people to know she is of Romanian parents but an American only knows a Parisienne when talking to her. Her concerts are lively with French cabaret songs. On this night, with a packed room, she appeared simply glam in a white ruffly blouse and black palliated blousy trousers and heels. She’s the chanteuse immediately. The repertoire was French and American, especially Cole Porter who loved Paris and wrote about it. Doing her Porter medley, she was joined by two smashing and sparkling can-can dancers in costume and doing those kicks.
Yanna gave us a little bit of French history. La Goulue was the stage named of the French dancer Louise Webber whom Toulouse-Lautrecimmortalized in his paintings of the Paris cabaret. And from there the rest of the set was lively and bursting with that energy of the can-can. (They sang that one too.) It was a great evening of song that drew the audience into participating in the chorus of the familiar songs. It was Yanna’s greatest performance yet. She’ll be back in the fall.
Cabaret is a tricky balance. For some, it is a joie de vivre experience defined as the pleasure felt when having a good time. Enter the beguiling Yanna Avis. Since her cabaret debut at Eighty Eight’s in 1992, Avis has played every major room in New York and has become one of the most popular international artists, with a fan base that continues to grow. With her new show at 54 Below (on June 18), Make Some Magic, Avis demonstrated why she is so unique and renowned for classy interpretations of songs from the 1930s to 1940s. Singing in German, Spanish, English and French, Avis sauntered through an hour of what she called “my cabaret,” which included her old-world deconstruction of seductive songs recalling an intimate boite style made famous by legendary divas famed for erudite and sexy ditties from a world we’ll never see again. They are as varied as the French actress/singer Jeanne Moreau to Germany’s Marlene Dietrich, who became famous for seducing audiences. Ms. Avis emanates them as she carries a similar torch.
Last Thursday night I went over to 54 Below on West 54th between 7th and 8th, where Yanna Avis was performing her program of cabaret. Yanna, who is French, was married for a long time to Warren Avis, the rent-a-car tycoon. I can’t remember if we first met in Los Angeles or here in New York, but we have a lot of mutual good friends and have known each other a long time.
Yanna had been an actress before she married Warren, but she put that away to have time to spend with her husband. Warren died at the ripe old age of 92 eight years ago this last April. It was about that time that Yanna began to focus once again on her love of performing. I call her The Chantouze.
“Tomorrow night, chanteuse supreme, Yanna Avis returns to Manhattan’s 54 Below with her “Make Some Magic” set of sultry, naughty numbers. Go to www.54below.com for tix info. Yanna brings back the soigné vibe of all those legendary ladies who lounged against pianos in the halcyon days of New York cabaret.”
“Ah Paree! Evoking ’50s glamour through teasing taunts, statuesque French chanteuse Yanna Avis sings with a wry understanding… The show’s essence is distilled in a word heard less and less nowadays: chic.” – Stephen Holden, The New York Times. With her new show “Make Some Magic” Yanna Avis takes us on a romantic journey through the landscape of love in her own continental cabaret style. She says: “No matter where it is, no matter what the language is, the feeling is always the same! I believe in the power of a love-song, even when it is only a dream or…an illusion!” “This cosmopolitan femme fatale sings sultry torch songs with equal ease in French, German, Spanish and, of course English… Nobody else is carrying on the European tradition quite so well. Ms. Avis has a raw, unrefined talent, and an admirable resolve to make time stand still.” – Rex Reed, New York Observer.
Yanna Avis is a magical person blessed with equal parts physical beauty and inner beauty. The kind of woman who reminds you of an elegance that has been lost in modern society but a kindness and intelligence that is very much present. I have known Yanna for years and witnessed her navigate the sophisticated politics of international crowds in multiple languages without losing the everyday realness that would inspire her to hold an in depth conversation with someone who might be working at one of the many social events her busy schedule allows. Her audience has included Liza Minnelli, John Guare, Arlene Dahl, authors such as Dominick Dunne and legendary socialites such as Daisy Soros, Pat Buckley, Ivana Trump, Nan Kempner, Taki Theorocopulos, Carolyne Roehm and legendary record executive Clive Davis. Or you may find politicos such as Vernon Jordan or fashion royalty’s Mary McFadden, Carolina & Reinaldo Herrera and actual royalty Princess Firyal of Jordan. It is only fitting that this Renaissance Lady would title her latest cabaret show at 54 Below “Make Some Magic.” I sat down with “La Chantouze” to find out a little more about what drives her in this mission to entertain, inspire and bewitch…