By Tulis McCall
For those of you who are in need of a direct infusion of joy, may I suggest you stop by Cafe Carlyle and treat yourself to Isaac Mizrahi and his mighty band (Ben Waltzer – Piano and Musical Director, Benny Benack – Trumpet, Bruce Harris – Trumpet, Joe Perri – Percussion, Neal Miner – Bass, Joe Strasser – Drums)? The Carlyle has arisen from a two year nap, dusted off her pearls and is ready to receive callers. Mizrahi is the perfect act to welcome us back.
The superb evening opens with a riotous “Get Happy” (Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler) because happy is what we all want to get – even though we are in New York to which no one comes to get happy – and Mizrahi is ready to dish it out. “We are all HERE!” he shouts over and over again because, well, we are. Everyone is “Darling” and everyone is adored, and we are all safe from the world out there. The room is packed, and one gets the feeling that if given a chance we would all stay right there all night long.
Mizrahi wastes no time in dishing everything and everyone in sight in the nicest possible ways. We are learning a new kind of happiness he tells us. The world is scary out there so grab the bits of goodness and held them fast. “Happy Days Are Here Again” (Milton Ager and Jack Yellen)- with gorgeous horn solo s by Benack and Harris – is a nostalgic offering encouraging us all to carry on.
Mizrahi is trying to keep it real but admits that he has not had a good nights sleep in years in spite of every assistance he has at hand. Plastic surgery anyone? People should know that at some point it does not make you look better. Social Media is like air freshener that tries to cover up a bad smell. People who call dogs fur babies should be slapped. Dogs are enlightened creatures who saved a lot of people – possibly against their will – during the pandemic. “Pet Sounds” (Beach Boys with lyrics by Isaac Mizrahi) is a light-hearted catchy tune about the animal perspective.
The evening features questions from the audience. The first on “Is love worth it?” Answer: Love is the only thing that’s worth it. His husband Arnold is the best husband in the world. But there is the occasional Jewish Affair. Remind me to tell you about that sometime. Mizrahi made it up when he was 9 or so. Love is worth it – Tinder, Grinder – all of it. And the caveat is that all dicks should be of the large variety.
Mizrahi confesses that he is NOT a Baby Boomer – he just turned 60 – and he has his concerns about Gen Z. He did not want to love Billie Eilish, but love her he does and treats us to his version of her “Everything I Wanted”. Because he is a story teller Eilish’s work is revealed as a universal drumbeat. He swings into “You Wanna Bet” (Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields) with more glorious band solos. There is a brief salute to drinking – it is what we need in a pandemic – and Zanex as needed, and the humble Tylenol that knows exactly what to do to make us feel better. Audience Question: What is the next fashion trend? Answer: Who cares? Except boutonnières – he likes gardenia boutonnières. A few stories about his mother, gardenias and Streisand. Then on to his version of Cole Porter’s “You’re The Top” with added lyrics by Mizrahi. (You’re the top – you’re indoor dining; You’re the cure for corona virus). Question: What’s next? Answer: Death or practicing gerontophilia
Mizrahi sweeps us into “Girl On Fire” (Alicia Keys) and the band rocks it to tomorrow and back. Mizrahi gives a musical tour of the band, and it’s hard to tell what each enjoys more- playing himself or listening to his band mates. I have never seen a happier posse.
The penultimate number is a heart crushing One More Kiss (Stephen Sondheim) featuring a solo by Ben Waltzer that transports the room to another planet.
Audience Question: Will New York always come back? Answer: New York never went anywhere, honey. This dovetails into “New York, New York” (John Kander and Fred Ebb) with several audience members, including yours truly, singing along loud and proud.
THIS. Exactly what the doctor ordered. And then some. Get there.
Isaac Mizrahi at Café Carlyle with his all-new show, “In-Person” will be at the Carlyle through March 12. TIP TO THE WISE – get a bar seat. Better sight lines and better bang for your buck. TICKETS HERE