American Songbook Series at Lincoln Center: Eric Comstock Salutes Charles Strouse
The heart of the evening was a prolonged appreciation of Golden Boy, Comstock's favorite score. The spotlight shifted from Comstock to Barbara Fasano, who winningly performed the exquisite but hardly remembered title song as well as a Billy Daniels' tour de force from the 1965 musical, "While the City Sleeps," which featured a very strong Stan Getz-ian solo by Harry Allen. Comstock then performed the love song that Sammy Davis, Jr. sang, "I Want To Be With You." Next, Fasano moved to the crook of the piano to sing "Lorna's Here," a ballad of reassurance in the original show, directly to Comstock. The room became very still as Fasano returned to center stage to finish the dramatic song. This was indeed a moment that transcended the usual concertizing, a moment that allowed the audience to be transported back in time to experience the chemistry between Sammy Davis and his leading lady, Paula Wayne, in the original Broadway production. Comstock and Fasano succeeded in revitalizing this scene with their ardor for the music and their own chemistry as a couple.
The guest of honor, Charles Strouse, then approached the piano. In a comfortable series of anecdotes, he related his beginnings as a jazz musician and other tales of New York. Then he played and sang his popular opening theme for Norman Lear's 1970s blockbuster sitcom that changed television history, All in the Family ("...Boy, the way Glenn Miller played ..."), even duplicating Jean Stapleton's (Edith Bunker's) "screech" note. He concluded with his anthem from Annie, the enormously popular "Tomorrow," to a standing ovation.
This grand finale might have left all the customers satisfied, but Comstock cleverly constructed the program to include a closing tribute to Manhattan. From A Broadway Musical came a humorous look at the world of reviews in the "Smashing, New York Times." Comstock's ultimate closer, Annie's celebratory "N.Y.C.," was accompanied by the traffic of Columbus Circle and the lights of New York seen through the massive windows of the Allen Room. Together with the performer's stirring rendition of the song, the evening was brought to a dream-like conclusion.