By Edward Kliszus
The dapper Jeff Harnar is a storyteller par excellence. He used the words and music of Stephen Sondheim to convey his biography as a New Yorker. One might argue that Sondheim sometimes expresses a sardonic view of life, at least as conveyed in some songs, but overall, his oeuvre contains the apposite means of expressing concepts like disappointment, desire, betrayal, cynicism, romance, absurdity, fate, humor, and nostalgia. Harnar assiduously grasped a selection of Sondheim’s artistic jewels and customized it for his purposes. He accomplished this with aplomb and sheer artistry as he expressed the essence of each poetic strain. Harnar sang with abandon while expressive and dramatic. He commanded the mood and spirit of each song and connected to an audience that was clearly under his spell, just like the voice of a poetic and romantic muse. Harnar was not alone on stage and was accompanied by his trio with Jon Weber, music director and pianist, Steve Doyle on bass, and Ray Marchica on drums. Each artist followed articulately designed musical arrangements that honor the complexity and beauty of Sondheim’s work.
The balance between the instruments was superb, and the musicians diligently communicated seamlessly throughout the evening. To the audience’s delight, Weber performed many improvisational and virtuoso segments. This level of musicianship heightened and intensified the vocal evocations of Sondheim’s genius while supporting Harnar’s eloquent and irresistible musical delectations.
Jeff Harnar with Liz Callaway. Photo by Steve Friedman
To realize the depth of Harnar’s insights and expressions of his life in New York, within the song list below is a narrative of exceptional charm, wisdom, heartbreak, passion, longing, loneliness, and managing it all with a sense of humor. Children Will Listen
from Into The Woods, Live Alone and Like It
from Dick Tracy
, You Could Drive a Person Crazy
from Company, Everybody Says Don’t
from Anyone Can Whistle, Loving You
from Passion, Losing My Mind
, Buddy’s Blues
, Can That Boy Foxtrot
, Getting Married Today
, Being Alive
, Send in the Clowns
from A Little Night Music, Anyone Can Whistle
from Anyone Can Whistle, Could I Leave You
, Demon Barber of Fleet Street
from Sweeny Todd,
and Now You Know
from Merrily We Roll Along.
After an extended standing ovation, Harnar performed a hilarious spoof consisting of songs showing how Sondheim might have written Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma
. It was entitled “Sunday in the Park with Curly.” It was clever, funny, and familiar.
The Laurie Beechman Theater
407 W 42nd St
New York, NY 10036
(212) 695-6909 Tickets
Readers may also enjoy The Music of Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye
, Debbie Gibson at 54 Below
, Liz Callaway Celebrates Sondheim,
and The Boy Band Project