Although no admission was charged for tonight's performance, it still pays off to arrive early.
My son and I have no expectations for this evening at the Westport Library in Westport, New York. It was a chance reading of a couple of paragraphs in the local paper that brought us to this evening of song with Alisa Endsley and Russell Ames.
Ms. Endsley and Mr. Ames are still checking sound and rehearsing a couple of numbers before the full audience arrives. Of course, I have heard of Russell Ames many times during my life in the Adirondacks but have never had the pleasure of such an intimate performance. Mr. Ames is an amazing pianist who has accompanied singers at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and various other venues throughout the world. It is a treat to witness this cozy preshow rehearsal. They begin with Alisa singing "The Man I Love" and then get into "The Colors of My Life" which they perform as a duet until there are too many people arriving and the impromptu rehearsal is cut off.
Unbeknownst to us, Alisa Endsley is a resident of Westport who shuttles back and forth between New York City and the Adirondacks. What we know about her is what we have read in the local paper and a quick browse online. She has portrayed many leading ladies from musicals including the lead role of Norma Desmond in the original company of "Sunset Boulevard" in London's West End as well as on Broadway.
Library Board President Cynthia Schira introduces the program which Alisa refers to as her first incarnation of "The Quotable Woman."
The actress explains that tonight's salon show is about love and relationships, good and bad, fraught with bipolar thinking.
She quotes Wallis Simpson and George Sand and follows this us with "Maybe This Time" going right into "The Man I Love" without missing a beat. We hear a brief, but touching tale of how Helen Hayes met her husband and Alisa delivers a moving rendition of "Love Is a Many Splendored Thing."
There's humor too in Comden, Green, and Bernstein's "One Hundred Easy Ways to Lose a Man" and Harnick and Baker's "Someone's Been Sending Me Flowers." The bipolar aspect of the evening centers around Cole Porter's "I Hate Men" from "Kiss Me Kate" immediately followed by A. McBroom's "I Love Men."
There are two numbers tonight that strike a special chord with me. The first is "Life Story" from "Closer Than Ever," R. Maltby and D. Shire's review that I saw in my first life in New York City. I always refer to this song as "I'm Not Complaining" since that is the recurrent lyric. The show was recently onstage again in NYC and I'm glad to know that particular song may have a life beyond the traditional stage.
The other song that moves me deeply this evening is "Errol Flynn" by A. McBroom and G. Hunt. I know I've heard it before, but I can't think of where. I find it a real tearjerker but the kind I relish in and Ms. Endsley sends it up with just the right amount of sentiment.
It is a delightful evening of beautiful artistry, witty quips, and quotes that so appropriately introduce the song stylist's repertoire. The library is full too. It is a very local crowd and they obviously adore Alisa and Russell, and why shouldn't they.
If you see her on the bill somewhere in the Adirondacks or New York City, or anywhere in between make sure to catch her show.