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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