The Tony Award-Winning singer/actress Melba Moore resplendent in a white lace evening gown and dripping in pearls hosted a party at her CAFÉ CARLYLE DEBUT, where she opened her new show, “Forever Moore,” last night April 26, 2011. The multi Grammy nominated singer took command of the evening with a rousing jazzy rendition of “Blue Skies” that literally blew the roof off the CARLYLE with her powerful 5 octave range and her ability to hold notes for extraordinary lengths of times while scaling that vocal range. The packed house erupted into thunderous applause and the perky entertainer exclaimed “I like it when you holler! This is our party.” The eclectic audience that included Cicely Tyson, Ambassador Wolf from the UN and Hal Jackson, who founded the radio station WBLS, hooted and hollered their approval and the celebration was in full swing.
From there Moore turned the evening into a bit of tribute to her mom, also a singer, and the sophisticated ladies, who profoundly influenced her art and career, Lena. Ella and Aretha. A playful version of a song her mother used to sing, an Ella standard “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got that Swing) followed, and from there Melba moved into a soul stirring version of the Lena Horne classic “Stormy Weather” with a gutsy arrangement that made the cover memorably her own, while acknowledging the legend, who passed away at 92 last May.
Next up was Cole Porter’s, “I Concentrate on You,” one of her mother’s favorites, which Moore delivered with a simplicity and clarity of vision that was transfixing, closing the song out with a haunting serenity that was spellbinding in juxtaposition to the earlier songs. She quickly transitioned into an astounding little ditty, Ella often performed, that had Melba scaling the charts all over the place. Finishing the exhausting vocal workout she jokingly exclaimed “Call in the paramedics. Where’s the oxygen?”
Catching her breath for a moment Moore highlighted her career that began on Broadway in the chorus of “Hair,” where after a year she auditioned for a lead and got the part, becoming the first black actress to replace a white actress on Broadway by taking over the role of Shelia, originated by Dianne Keaton. From “Hair” Melba delivered Shelia’s song to Burger a fantastic “Easy To Be Hard,” and segued into “Let The Sunshine In” also from “Hair.”
While performing in “Hair” a friend encouraged her to audition for the new Broadway musical “Purlie,” and she got the part snagging the 1970 Tony award in the process for her interpretation of Lutiebelle and stopping the show nightly with a song the creators wrote just for her “I Got Love.” From that musical Moore sang the lead song “Purlie,” and turned “I Got Love” into a hand clapping audience participation number, which had her party rocking.
Melba’s 90+ year old father /pianist was in the audience, and she brought him up to entertain us with a couple of swing piano numbers, which she liked to listen to as a little girl. He concluded with a witty Fats Waller standard “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter.” From there Melba moved into several of her top 10 R&B chart hits from her numerous albums including, “This Is It,” “You Stepped Into My Life,” and her latest R&B current #1 hit “LOVE IS,” from her recently released CD of the same name. The inspirational song, which she delivered with soaring spirit, has been number one for four weeks and holding strong. She followed this with another of her R&B hits “I’m Falling,” before moving into a medley of Motown hits including “Too Many Fish in the Sea,” Don’t Mess With Bill,” and “Dancing In the Streets.”
After making a toast to our health, wealth, and happiness Moore closed out the celebration with a stunning cover of a song that has been with her throughout her career “Lean On Me, which was the B side on old 45 (they don’t make them anymore) by Aretha. Moore jokingly quipped “I’ll take crumbs from the Queen,” but these were no mere crumbs – here was another soul stirring anthem to the power of love.
I suggest booking now, because as soon as word spreads “Forever Moore” will be sold out quickly. The evening was so marvelous I recommend going twice, because I am sure Melba Moore, a musical wonder, never does anyting exactly the same twice. By: Patrick Christiano
“Forever Moore” runs Tuesday April 26 through Saturday May 7, performing 12 Tuesday through Friday at 8:5 pm and Saturday at 8:45 pm and 10:45 pm at The Café Carlyle in The Carlyle Hotel, 35 East 76th Street at Madison Avenu. For reservations call 212-744-1600 or visit www.thecarlyl.com
Photography: Barry Gordin