Taking its name from a 1930s novelty tune associated with vaudeville performer Cliff “Ukulele Ike” Edwards, this cabaret revue of vintage American song showcases two remarkable singer-instrumentalists, Kevin Cole and Morgan Evans, whose superb technique is wedded to a ripe affinity for music of the 20s and 30s. Pianist-arranger Cole is best known here as musical director of the long-running doo-wop spoof Forever Plaid; but his specialty is George Gershwin (in whose orchestral masterpieces he solos with symphonies around the country), and his electrifying renditions here of that composer’s work sparkle with syncopated countermelodies and cheeky lyricism. Evans, with his pearly tenor, can croon a classic like Hoagy Carmichael’s “Star Dust” with gently swinging dreaminess and the long, elegant phrasing of a French art song. But the program more often finds him breezily strumming a ukulele on some rediscovered rarity while flashing a toothsome smile–the epitome of peppy Jazz Age boyishness–or blowing a harmonica in Larry Adler-influenced counterpoint to Cole’s chromatic piano chordings. Presenting both familiar and little-known selections by Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen, Leroy Anderson, Hugh Martin, and Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields, as well as Carmichael and the Gershwins, and featuring able support from bassist Scott Rosenthal, Night Owls combines a slightly camp comic sensibility with dazzling musicianship and unerring period style. Monday and Tuesday and next Monday and Tuesday, June 9 and 10, 8 PM, Royal George Cabaret Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted; 312-988-9000. ALBERT WILLIAMs
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Kevin Cole and Morgan Evans photo.