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CABARET REVIEW

Haran Show Honors Work of Inventive Lyricist Larry Hart

February 16, 1996|DON HECKMAN

"A lot of people," said Mary Cleere Haran at the start of her Valentine's Day program at the Cinegrill Wednesday night, "have heard songs like 'Blue Moon,' 'Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered' and 'My Funny Valentine.' But many of them don't know that the words were all written by Larry Hart. Which is why, boys and girls, we have cabaret."

It was a fitting opening for an evening dedicated to the work of one of the most inventive lyricists in the history of American popular song. And a further definition of the unique combination of entertainment, theatricality and education that can be provided by a thoughtful cabaret performer such as Haran.

Her show--written and arranged with musical director Richard Rodney Bennett--ranged across the remarkable lyrics produced by Hart in his extraordinary, less than two decades of intense productivity, virtually all of it in tandem with composer Richard Rodgers. Starting with "Manhattan" (1925), their first hit, and concluding with "Bewitched" from "Pal Joey" (1941), Haran sang songs both familiar and obscure from the Hart catalog.

Although the material was fascinating and the Hart songs superb, Haran was not in particularly good form. Clearly suffering from a cold, her usually warm-toned voice sounded rough and edgy, she also seemed, at times, to be too locked into her scripted presentation. One of Haran's great strengths is her ability to intersperse her songs with humorous lines, often knocked out in spontaneous, stream-of-consciousness fashion. A larger helping of her quick- witted, improvisational patter would vastly improve this otherwise illuminating evening of musical cabaret.

* Mary Cleere Haran at the Radisson Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel Cinegrill, 7000 Hollywood Blvd., (213) 466-7000. Tonight and Saturday at 8 and 10:30. $15 cover with $10 minimum purchase.

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