By Lynn Dimenna, Cabaret Scenes | October 12, 2009

Yanna Avis has been called a cross between Edith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich and that is certainly a flattering comparison. On the contemporary scene she might remind one of “Uma” or “Ute,” as in Thurman or Lemper, given the equally alluring and mysterious quality they share with the international chanteuse. On stage at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency for the second time this fall, in a magnificent skintight black pants suit with a soft white, flouncy collar and cuffs, she definitely enhanced the beauty and elegance of the room
Sultry and sexy, singing a multi-lingual repertoire that has become her forte, she had the strong support of some very fine sidemen: on accordion Patrick Farrell, bass David Finck and violin/viola Eddie Malave. Her Musical Director, David Shenton, and director, Daniel Isengart, musically and artistically shaped a program that enabled her to work her unique and appealing magic to the delight of her savvy, sophisticated audience.

To be sure, very few “chantoosies” in fishnet stockings covering legs that go on forever can stretch out and caress the top of a Steinway and make it look so natural and effortless. One can sense that Ms. Avis is as comfortable there as she is at a café in Paris or dining at the Ritz! All the songs on her song list, whether in French, Italian, Spanish or German, serve to heighten the “mystique!”

Negotiating off the stage and in and around tightly cramped chairs, however, proved to be a challenge that she might not have anticipated. On the other hand, her foray into the audience provided an opportunity to get a sense of who the real Yanna Avis truly is. Seeing her vulnerable made her a bit less mysterious and that much more likeable.

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Photo By Jeffrey Hirsch/NewYorkSocialDiary.com
Photo By Jeffrey Hirsch/NewYorkSocialDiary.com

By David Patrick Columbia, New York Social Diary | September 30, 2009

“Meanwhile, yesterday in New York. At eight o’clock I went down to Feinstein’s at the Regency to hear my friend Yanna Avis in her debut in that room. Yanna is a chanteuse, “an exotic international chanteuse,” as she’s been described elsewhere.

She’s Parisienne by birth. A number of years ago she married the Rent-a-Car tycoon and industrialist Warren Avis. They cut a wide swath in the international high life here, in Europe and Acapulco where Warren had been a long time resident. Yanna put aside her career in the early part of her marriage. Although encouraged by Warren, she eventually began to pursue and develop it.

I’d seen her perform several times in cabaret, but last night was the first time I’d seen a complete finished act with a set of songs and a theme. And it was like the words Mr. Porter had written, “the bubbles in a glass of champagne ….” A very good time.

La chantouze is how she sometimes signs her notes to me. It also is the theme. The songs are a mixture of some familiar melodies with French lyrics, some familiar old American tunes – not so much the Broadway standards — and a very intimately delivered monologue of the chantouze.

Yanna’s delivery is almost tongue in cheek. She moves. She gets up on the piano, she reclines; she’s back on her to feet and looking right at that spot, that audience of one whom she’s addressing and singing too (when she’s not singing to the rest of us). Her sense of humor is playfully sultry and sometimes self-parodying. Yanna in life has a very sunny disposish. She is very much the femme fatale, but she is also serious, the actress.

People who know her love her for this. Her show was like that. It’s authentic, and last night there were a lot of her friends in the opening audience. They loved her for it.”

 

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Backstage | January 7, 2004

Joie de vivre! On the subject of refinement, international chanteuse and stunning socialite Yanna Avis brought her new show to the King Kong Room for three SRO performances in December. With musical director Dick Gallagher and direction by Thommie Walsh, the carefully crafted set allowed Avis to be the intimate, sexy illusion that she is—à la Dietrich in her prime. In fact, the Dietrich mainstay “Illusions” (Hollander) is a trademark number that defines her brand of flirtatious sex appeal fused with smoky haute-parlor cabaret. She has a soft, quicksilver vibrato that does justice to her ballads and makes them better than they might have been in lesser hands. Whether slithering on top of the piano, seductively teasing a gentleman in the audience, emoting Cole Porter, or vamping in French, Spanish, or German, Yanna Avis recalls an era when bubbly champagne and bubbly people filled nightclubs with elegance and a devil-may-care lifestyle that was once de rigueur in café society.

Her songs of romance and lost love fitted perfectly into her sullen alto as she caressed every lyric with the purr of a cat about to strike. What makes her such a success at her craft is that she never goes beyond her strengths—that, and her commitment to the message of the composer. Avis is classy and elegant, with a playful mystique that is rare. The prominent glitterati crowd of celebrities, intellectuals, and A-list friends cheering on one of their own was evidence that this lovely lady, who wears her music and mystery like a Blackglama, is one of our most beguiling chanteuses to embrace any stage, whether it be at the Spoleto Festival, on the Riviera, or in a gaudy Manhattan nightspot.

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By John Hoglund, Backstage | February 21, 2001

For the past few years, Yanna Avis has worked hard at her craft. She’s offered wonderfully entertaining shows with a lot of panache. Her multilingual songs in tightly knit acts have always recalled images of Dietrich, Piaf, and the tasteful and charming naughty ladies Cole Porter wrote about. Today, this glamorous beauty glided through a sexy, fun hour with joie de vivre to spare.

Avis has had to work through the burdens of her well-known last name and social status to be taken more seriously for what she is, not who she is. And, the results are bravura. With this new show, under two-time Tony-winner Thommie Walsh’s effulgent direction, her intentions and talent will never again be questioned. So, once and for all, let’s forget the last name and treat this hypnotic lady as the triple-threat talent into which she has evolved in one of the season’s best acts.

Always in touch with her strengths, Avis has found her niche as an interpreter of a savoir faire cabaret recalling the beginnings of this time-honored genre. Like a young Dietrich, she, too, has become a master illusionist of intelligent, often silly, sex-ridden images in song and fantasy.

Opening with the rarity “Look Me Over Closely” (which Dietrich recorded, but never performed in public), Avis saunters like a sexy burlesque queen from one end of the caf to the other; arching her back, seductively flirting, she sets the stage for this steamy act. Cole Porter’s “Ça c’est l’amour,” followed by Michel Emer’s “Je m’en fous pas mais,” is almost debauching in its presentation. Remarking that “in sailing over thin water, your safety net is your speed,” she glides through German, Spanish, and French songs that are electrically charged paeans to another era.

Highlights on the night I attended also included “Ten Cents a Dance,” “An Occasional Man,” and “Just a Gigolo.” Each was infused with sex appeal and subtle choreography that cast a spell over the room enhanced by the haunting accordion in her instrumental trio. As she captured every irony of Murray Grand’s “Guess Who I Saw Today?,” it read like a whispered three-act play. Once in fierce control of her emotion and body language, Walsh has managed to strip away Avis’ patrician veneer. Closing with her mainstay, “Parlez-moi d’amour,” Yanna Avis proved she could climb more than just the social ladder. This careful crafted show dispelled any doubts and proved the lady is a winner-in any language. Watch for her return to The FireBird in the fall.

 

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By John Hoglund, Backstage | February 21, 2001

RECALLING A CONTINENTAL-STYLE CABARET long associated with elegant bo”tes of another era, international chanteuse Yanna Avis packed them into the intimate FireBird Cafe last week, in a show directed by Barry Kleinbort. Here she sang of the romance and simple charm of another era. While not the definitive cabaret act or the most accessible performer, Yanna Avis is, in many ways, to cabaret what Cuisinart is to blenders. She is unique, exciting, and razor sharp. Her delivery is always sensitive, hushed, and warm. She also has fun with her audience and, in spite of her sophisticated persona and gazelle-like elegance, doesn’t take herself too seriously.

Avis was particularly effective singing a fiery Argentinean tango called “Fumado Espero,” a smoking romp about waiting for a lover, and a quiet reading of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” However, this thrush was at her best singing songs from her native Paris, such as Piaf’s haunting “La Vie en Rose” and “Paris Canaille” with brio. Another French song, “Parlez-Moi d’Amour,” about a gigolo, gave the chanteuse another fine moment in this memorable hour. Closing with a perfect reading of the sexy “Illusions” proved to be the perfect cap for this beautiful lady who needs to do more local cabaret.

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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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