Barbara Bleier and Austin Pendleton ★★★ The Pheasantry | January 13 &14, 2023

Two consummate song stylists bring their talents to interpreting the works of Stephen Sondheim and Oscar Hammerstein in this thoroughly enjoyable evening at The Pheasantry. Both Barbara Bleier and Austin Pendleton have long histories in performing, and they draw on that experience in a show which features the two genius songwriters in the first half and offers a selection of their own favourites in the second. From the opening number, "What Do We Do? We Fly!" taken from Sondheim's show with Richard Rodgers, Do I Hear a Waltz? the audience knows that, unlike the reluctant flyers, we can relax. We are in the capable hands of two seasoned songsters. Indeed, with their excellent accompanist, Paul Greenwood, the pair manages to extract depths of meaning and humour from the works of both the masters and from their other selections, some familiar and some new to us. Their performance of "Anyone Can Whistle" was a showstopper, and a particular highlight was Bleier's wry rendition of "Am I Old Enough for a Younger Man." While the voices are not always perfect and sometimes the lyrics may get muddled, none of this matters too much in what seems like a wonderfully intimate walk down memory lane with two artists who love what they are doing and who manage to communicate their own enthusiasm to the audience. In Britain, the term "national treasure" is often rather tossed around, but we'd say this duo would seem to qualify.

Rated: ★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Bill Knight.

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