Monday, March 21, 2005
Last September, I saw Bobby Short at the Kennedy Center, where he performed a bunch of songs by Cole Porter, his favorite. The evening was ostensibly a celebration of Porter, and Short was just a bonus performer in a lineup of talent led by Marvin Hamlisch. But New York City's most enduring cabaret performer (36 years at The Carlyle, probably most visible playing himself in Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters) stole the show when he closed the evening with his signature "In the Night." For most of the evening, he had played the piano, but for this number he took centerstage, belting the song to the rafters, his 80-year-old voice stretched and strained like Louis Armstrong taffy. He took four encores of the last verse of the song -- a brass-heavy, climactic big-band bonanza -- and the applause grew after each one. He just kept motioning to the band to kick it one more time, and it was like a sustained fever-pitch joy that, if I close my eyes, I'm still experiencing.