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.”
“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…”
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.