note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Beverly Creasey
If you think Ben Sears and Brad Conner do elegant concerts, you don't know the half of it. They do ... but last week at Sculler's the sophisticated duo teamed up with Valerie Anastasio and Tim Harbold for a blowout evening of grand song, spiffy dancing and hilarious comedy. Their tribute to Fred Astaire and Ethel Merman, smugly called "Fred And Ethel" (even though the two never appeared together) featured the sensational songs of Porter, Gershwin, Berlin and Kern. Sculler's was the only place to be last week. The gorgeous night sky sparkled as we sat bathed in candlelight overlooking the city --- and the music cooked!
Ben (vocals) and Brad (piano) have been performing together for so long that they practically breathe together on a velvety love ballad like "Night And Day". Brad literally danced his fingers across the keys on the breathtaking "Dancing in The Dark".
Likewise the team of Harbold and Anastasio: Tim's airy accompaniment on "I Get A Kick Out of You" perfectly matched Valerie's soaring vocals. Not only can Valerie deliver a soulful romantic ballad, she can horse around like a Marx Brother. Her relentlessly barking rendition of "It's The Animal in Me" (rhyming hosannas wit bananas) was so deliciously daffy we wanted more bow(wow)s.
Valerie and Ben saluted Astaire and Garland as the smudgefaced "Couple of Swells"; Ben, Brad and Valerie regressed in style for the bouncing baby ballad "Triplets" --- and they tapped to boot! Like seasoned hoofers yet.
Brad looked fetching in red cape and sequins for the Irving Berlin "Devil" song, and when we had already laughed ourselves silly he sang it in doubletime. Act II "reeked with class" when all four donned white tie and tails. They could have worn their pajamas, it didn't matter; we were having such a grand time. When they do "Fred And Ethel" again, don't miss it. You'll be tickled pink.