By Casey Curtis
There are two reasons to go to Cafe Carlyle to see Ana Gasteyer and only one of them involves Ana. Cafe Carlyle is a gorgeous old New York City space. To sit there is to be transported into another era — and possibly another economic class. The murals by Marcel Vertés are gorgeous, the food is delicious, and the walk through and past the Carlyle’s other rooms will make you want to sell your co-op and live instead at this marvelous hotel. But if that is reckless real-estate advice, just commit to spending a night at the Cafe. Bobby Short ruled the room for 36 years; when he passed away Cafe Carlyle began featuring a rotating line-up of cabaret talent. On October 25th, that talent was Ana Gasteyer, former SNL cast member and currently legit-voiced singer.
Here is all you need to know: Ana Gasteyer sings beautifully and when she isn’t singing, it’s damn fun to hear her speaking. Ana’s songs ranged from Broadway standards, “Defying Gravity,” (Ana was in Wicked) to comic tongue-twisters, “A Proper Cup of Coffee,” to slower ballads. My favorite of the evening was the Magnetic Field’s song, “The Book of Love,” which she sang soulfully and movingly. As with when someone with a fine voice sings a Bob Dylan song and it’s like hearing it anew, so it is with “The Book of Love.” The original singer, Stephin Merritt, does not have Ana’s vocal range. Listening to Ana’s sweetly sung, evocative version was a transporting experience.
Now to the damn fun speaking part. What a joy it is to get to “hang out” with Ms. Gasteyer. She tells anecdotes from her travels during road tours — the story of the Two Luke Johnsons merits it’s own HBO special, good-naturedly teases the upper east side audience, and shares her feelings about her mother calling her “handsome.” In the intimate Cafe Carlyle, I felt like I got to be a dinner table with Ms. Gasteyer and that is a fun experience.
Sitting in Cafe Carlyle, eating well, and sipping a drink is a quintessential New York experience from another era. Laughing with Ana Gasteyer and listening to her sing is — let’s do the time warp again — a modern pleasure. Putting those two together makes for a marvelous night in any year.
Ana Gasteyer at the Cafe Carlyle, 212-744-1600, Tuesday – Friday at 8:45 PM; Saturday at 8:45 pm & 10:45pm. Cafe Carlyle is at the Carlyle Hotel, 35 East 76th Street, at Madison Avenue. October 25 – November 5. Ana Gasteyer – Vocals, Tedd Firth – Musical Direction and Piano, Jeremy Chatsky – Bass, Richard Feridun – Guitar, Greg Thymius – Saxophone & Reeds, David Berger – Drums, Julian Fleisher – Direction