Mary Cleere Haran

Like many baby boomers, Mary Cleere Haran grew up on the songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein–and then later discovered in Richard Rodgers’s earlier collaborations with Lorenz Hart a whole new canon that was “lively, spirited, sexy, and much more interesting,” as Haran puts it. Hart’s urbane, martini-dry lyrics, and the jazzy wit with which Rodgers’s melodies responded to them, are perfectly suited to Haran’s vocal style, a model of elegant understatement with lyrically long phrases and crisp, thoughtful articulation. But what gives Haran’s delivery of this material a special resonance (as documented on her CD This Funny World, released in 1995 to honor Hart’s centenary) is her ability to reveal (without wallowing in) the tenderness and vulnerability in Hart’s writing as well as its sassy sophistication. Take her version of “With a Song in My Heart”: usually delivered with the force of a national anthem, in Haran’s reading it’s part languid lullaby, part aching farewell, and wholly unforgettable. Starting Tuesday, in her first Chicago engagement since 1988, Haran will perform her Hart tribute, in which anecdotal commentary about the lyricist’s fascinatingly messy life punctuates both familiar and little-known material. (Unlike many club canaries who indulge in too much between-song patter, Haran is a marvelous storyteller who always remembers that the music comes first.) She’ll alternate that program with one of classic movie songs, again seasoned with stories about the tunes and the stars who sang them. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 8 and 10 PM, and Fridays and Saturdays, 9 and 11 PM, through April 26, Toulouse Cognac Bar, 2140 N. Lincoln Park West; 773-665-9071. ALBERT WILLIAMS

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Mary Cleere Haran by Hans Neleman.