Speak Love to Me
NEW YORK OBSERVER On the Town With Rex Reed At the Firebird Cafe, what's left of cafe society is cramming in tight as the Russian caviar to see the glamorous chanteuse Yanna Avis conduct a guided tour through a landscape of love that roams sensually from the boites of Edith Piaf's Paris, to the cellars of Marlene Dietrich's Berlin. Not since I first heard luscious Hildegard Knef in a smoky dive in Berlin, have I seen so entrancing and svelte a femme fatale. Singing, 'Justa Gigolo' with one sequined leg propped on a stool and her haute couture derriere planted on top of the grand piano, Born in France of Romanian descent, she sings sultry torch songs with equal ease in French, German, Spanish and, of course, English, but she's full of surprises, too. Cole Porter's seldom heard 'Ca C'est L'amour' is a tantalizing centerpiece, but she picks up the pieces and the tempo on Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael's 'How Little We Know' and Ervin Drake's 'The Friendliest Thing Two People Can Do' with just the right amount of sexy vibrato on the vowels. 'Ten Cents a Dance' and 'Guess Who I Saw Today' capture two more aspects of love lost, lamented and longed for, and Lucienne Boyer's famous 'Parlez Mei D'amour' is a perfect encore. Her polished new act, directed by the talented, Tony-winning Thommie Walsh, is the result of talent and hard work, proving there's more to Yanna Avis than charm.... BACK STAGE The Performing Arts Weekly Joie de Vivre by John Hoglund For the past few years, Yanna Avis has worked hard at her craft. She's offered wonderfully entertaining show with a lot of panache. Her multilingual songs in tightly-knit acts have always recalled images of Dietrich, Piaf and the tasteful and charming naughty ladies Cole Porter wrote about. Today, this glamorous beauty glided through a sexy, fun hour with joie de vivre to spare. Avis has had to work through the burdens of her well-known last name to be taken seriously for what she is, not who she is. And the results are Nirvana. With this new show, under two-time Tony-winner Thommie Walsh's effulgent direction, her intentions and talent will never again be questioned. So, once and for all, let's forget the last name and treat this hypnotic lady as the triple-threat talent into which she has evolved in one of the season's best acts. Always in touch with her strengths, Avis has found her niche as an interpreter of a savoir faire cabaret recalling the beginnings of this time-honored genre. Like a young Dietrich, she, too, has become a master illusionist of intelligent, often silly, sex-ridden images in song and fantasy. Opening with the rarity, 'Look Me Over Closely' (which Dietrich recorded, but never performed in public), Avis saunters like a sexy burlesque queen from one end of the cafe to the other, arching her back seductively flirting, she sets the stage for this steamy act. Cole Porter's 'Ca c'est l'amour', followed by Michel Emer's 'Je m'en fous pas mal', is almost debauching in it's presentation. Remarking that 'in sailing over thin water, your safety net is your speed,' she glides through German, Spanish and French songs that are electrically charged paeans to another era. Highlights on the night I attended also included, 'Ten Cents a Dance', 'An Occasional Man' and 'Just a Gigolo'. Each was infused with sex appeal and subtle choreography that cast a spell over the room enhanced by the haunting accordion in her instrumental trio. As she captured every irony of Murray Grand's 'Guess Who I Saw Today?' it read like a whispered three-act play. Once in fierce control of her emotion and body language, Walsh has managed to strip away Avis' patrician veneer. Closing with her mainstay, 'Parlez-moi d'amour', this careful crafted show dispelled any doubts and proved the lady is a winner--in any language. THE NEW YORKER Firebird Cafe, 363 W. 46th ST. (586-0244) Just because Yanna Avis is married to the rental-car magnate who tries harder, you shouldn't assume that hers is strictly a vanity career. As her recording, 'Easy Come, Easy Go' shows, this Paris-born actress and chanteuse puts across songs with unfussy sincerity and a winning inclination toward contralto sprech-stimme. Thanks to her cosmopolitan background, English, Italian and German numbers fit her almost as neatly as French torch songs; as a result, her programs can be delightfully varied. You'll find nothing cutting-edge here, but if you're hankering to escape to a fifties night club, the Firebird may do the trick while Avis and pianist Colin Romoff are occupying the stage, through March 7. .