Wednesday was a night of firsts for the Grand Center Cabaret Series. Not only did it mark the beginning of its 11th season, it also marked a move in location to the Sheldon Concert Hall from the nearby Grandel Theatre. Wednesday's performance also featured the series debut of Christine Andreas, who wowed the audience with two sets of exciting vocal pyrotechnics and a large helping of charisma and charm.
Andreas made her Broadway debut in an acclaimed revivial of "My Fair Lady" and has been nominated for Tony Awards for her work in "Oklahoma" and "On Your Toes."
Her recordings "The Carlyle Set" and "Here's to the Ladies" have made critical Top Ten lists - and New York critics have raved about her nightclub appearances.
Backed by her husband, Marty Silvestri, at the grand piano, Andreas combined acting talent and vocal skills to seamlessly meld classics from the great American songbook with tunes from country artist Clint Black and singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter.
After opening with a swinging version of "Fly Me to the Moon," Andreas turned in a touching, understated reading of Irving Berlin's "Falling in Love is Wonderful." She kicked the opening set into high gear with an energetic version of "On a Clear Day," and then showcased her versatility with the Black hit "Something That We Do," which highlighted the song's lyrical strength without losing its down-home country flavor.
After Andreas presented a lovely version of Chapin-Carpenter's "What if We Went to Italy," Silvestri joined in for a duet on "I Remember It Well," adding a touch of Maurice Chevalier to his part.
Andreas kept the Gallic theme going with a bravura take on "I Love Paris" that segued wonderfully into a winning version of Piaf's "La Vie en Rose."
The second set opened with a tightly paced medley of 10 Gershwin songs. Then Andreas highlighted Silvestri's skills as a composer with "Welcome Home," which is from his Broadway play "Johnny Guitar," and "Cover Me."
After a sultry version of "My Heart Belongs to Daddy," Andreas closed the show with a tribute to Barbra Streisand, singing "The Music that Makes me Dance" and "Don't Rain on my Parade" from "Funny Girl."
Andreas opened the new Cabaret Series in fine style, and her lovely voice was well served by the Sheldon's excellent acoustics, which certainly bode well for performers during the rest of the season.