If you're looking for bravura ornamentation of time-tested melodies, Phillip Officer is not the singer for you. Winner of this year's MAC Award for major male vocal engagement from the Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs, this balladeer knows that less is more. His appealing, slightly breathy tenor is capable of considerable power, but he uses it sparingly--his specialty is thoughtful, casually intimate interpretations that highlight the conversational simplicity of great lyrics. In his charming, often intoxicating new show, Yip & Gersh, he focuses on the work of wordsmiths E.Y. "Yip" Harburg and Ira Gershwin, whose parallel prolific careers were nurtured by a shared schoolboy admiration for the operetta librettos of William S. Gilbert. In their collaborations with such composers as Harold Arlen, Kurt Weill, Burton Lane, and (of course) George Gershwin, "Yip and Gersh" created oeuvres notable for cheeky optimism, whimsical wit, and playfully inventive slang. Officer's delight in these qualities and his deep attraction to the songs' underlying plucky hopefulness bring convincing immediacy to neglected gems like the Gershwins' "Isn't It a Pity," Harburg and Lane's "Poor You," and the Gershwin-Harburg-Arlen collaborations "You're a Builder-Upper" and "Fun to Be Fooled"; he revitalizes standards such as "Old Devil Moon" and "They Can't Take That Away From Me." Tex Arnold, Margaret Whiting's regular pianist, provides meticulous accompaniment. Friday and Saturday, 9 and 11 PM, Tuesday through Thursday, 8 and 10 PM, and next Friday and Saturday, May 9 and 10, 9 and 11 PM, Toulouse Cognac Bar, 2140 N. Lincoln Park West; 773-665-9071. ALBERT WILLIAMS
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Uncredited photo of Phillip Officer.