On April 21, husband-and-wife performers Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano brought the buzz they have been creating Saturday nights at Birdland in Manhattan to a rainy Friday night in Cleveland, Ohio, for a special charity show for The Musical Theater Project. The Nick and Nora Charles of cabaret bantered and performed choice selections in a show called “From Sinatra to Sondheim to Sting,” much to the delight of the sold-out audience.
The evening opened where the musical Chicago ends—with the Kander and Ebb song “Nowadays.” Fasano belted out the lyrics with Comstock’s skilled support behind the piano. It was a perfect blend of sophistication, energy, and wit balancing jazz with a Broadway sound. No surprise that the New Yorker magazine recently wrote of these two performers, “a little jazz—with its insistence on spontaneity and invigorating swing—can give cabaret a needed kick in the pants.”
Despite the cold and dampness outside, all was warm and dry (wit) inside the Tudor Arms Hotel, formerly a swanky private club opened in the 1933. Comstock and Fasano’s show perfectly fit into the jazz heavy history of the hotel, a place where Duke Ellington once played. Among the song selection for the evening were classics like Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer’s “How Little We Know” (1944), Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” (1926), and period-appropriate Harold Arlen’s “As Long As I Live” from 1933 which the couple performed as a duet. The classic “How About You” even received a sly update from Comstock who sang about the looks of Stormy Daniels and the jokes of Jimmy Kimmel.
The lightheartedness continued with Comstock telling the posh audiences about the late, great Dave Frishberg’s song “Van Lingo Mungo,” which is comprised of nothing but obscure baseball player names, before swinging into Frishberg’s lighthearted “Let’s Eat Home.”
Comstock and Fasano also dipped into more contemporary songs like Sting’s “Fields of Gold” and Fasano wowed the audience with an emotionally powerful rendition of a lesser-known Joni Mitchell song, “Cactus Tree.”
The show was an elegant souffle with Comstock and Fasano weaving together different flavors of songs, ranging from the Great American Songbook to Broadway to Hollywood musicals. They effortless moved from comedy to passionate love to wistful heartbreak. The connection between these two lit up their performances. Their encore sent the audience out into the rain and cold smiling with a mash-up of the Arthur Schwartz & Howard Dietz’s “New Sun in the Sky” and “Shine On Your Shoes.”
The money raised at the special performance benefited The Musical Theater Project, a group that celebrates, preserves and honors 20th century classic musicals and the Great American Songbook. They also do school outreach in Northeastern Ohio to create personal connections between youth and music. Comstock and Fasano first performed for the group six years ago.