Beloved singer Shirley Ritenour lavished her lovely soprano on songs of love and devotion, many of them standards, in her show billed as “An Affair to Remember,” at Don’t Tell Mama on October 19. Pianist Brian Holman served as Music Director and Scott Barnes, as Stage Director. The performance raised funds for Concerned Women of the Grove (CWOG) beneficiaries Gilda’s Club NYC and Stony Brook Cancer Research.
Our diva opened with David Friedman’s “Listen to My Heart,” famously sung by the late Nancy LaMott, moving us with her sensitive account and receiving well-deserved mid-song applause. Ritenour’s pair of Rodgers and Hammerstein favorites were “A Grand Night for Singing,” from “State Fair,” at once lilting and sweeping, with a ringing climactic high note, and “I Have Dreamed,” from “The King and I,” hushed, in an apt reverie, with a liquid legato high ending. Her touching pairing of tributes, Friedman’s “Romance of the Children” and Larry Grossman and Hal Hackady’s “Mama, a Rainbow,” from “Minnie’s Boys,” was “dedicate[d] to all the Moms who are here and those in Heaven.” To celebrate her birthday, she made Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 11 o’clock number from “Cats” into a gentle spoof about aging and loss of short term “Memory,” with lyrics courtesy of Pam Peterson.
Ritenour offered a tender “Friendly Star,” by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon, from the film “Summer Stock,” sung by Judy Garland and, later, by Debbie Reynolds. Our singer’s quietly penetrating “I’ve Got You under My Skin,” by Cole Porter, followed. To cap a sincerely loving “Time after Time,” of Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne, Ritenour unleashed the full power of her operatic instrument. She and her audience found Joni Mitchell’s timeless “Both Sides Now” as pertinent now as it was in our youth. Ritenour and Holman discovered the flowing romantic art song in title number “An Affair to Remember,” from the film of the same name, with music by Warren and lyrics by Harold Adamson and Leo McCarey.
The soprano limned safe spaces in anthems “Downtown,” by Tony Hatch, with the audience joining her in the familiar refrain, and “Over the Rainbow,” by Harold Arlen and E.Y. “Yip” Harburg, from “The Wizard of Oz,” with a grandly legit conclusion. She closed with Lee Holdridge and Molly Ann Leikin’s “American Hymn,” a powerful song of hope and home, at a difficult time, and sent us off with a warm “We Can Be Kind,” by Friedman, as an encore.
Ritenour, assisted by Holman, repeats her show at Don’t Tell Mama, 343 West 46th Street, on October 26 at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6:30. The cover charge is $25, cash only, and there is a two-drink minimum. For reservations, telephone 212/757-0788 or visit www.donttellmamanyc.com