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.”