A Lovely Evening with Wesla Whitfield and Mike Greensill at Society Cabaret
Let’s face it Wesla Whitfield and her partner Mike Greensill are two of the best cabaret artists around. On Friday night January 23rd she packed the intimate Society Cabaret room with her admiring fans. Wesla once told a critic that she doesn’t really like having to come up with themes for her show but club managers seem to think it necessary for ticket sales. So this particular night she and Mike choose Harry Warren songs who wrote many songs for Hollywood movies.
Harry Warren over a career spanning four decades wrote more than 800 songs. He was the first major American songwriter to write primarily for films. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song eleven times and won three Oscars for composing “Lullaby of Broadway, “You’ll Never Know” and “On the Atkinson, Topeka and the Santa Fee”. He wrote the music for the first blockbuster film musical, Warner Brothers “42nd Street”. He was one of America’s most prolific film composers and his songs have been featured in over 300 films.
Wesla and Mike chose sixteen of this composer eclectic songs running from the familiar to the not so familiar. Mike Greensill on piano opened the 70 minute gig playing the lovely “This Heart of Mine”. Without any fanfare Wesla Whitfield came on the small stage and did a sublime rendition of “The More I See You” and then going up tempo to “42nd Street” seguing into “Lullaby of Broadway and going immediately in a transcendent reading of “September in the Rain”
Wesla believes in no bells and whistles in her shows and there is very little patter. She went into “I Only Have Eyes for You” seguing into a lighter mood singing “Jeepers Creepers” and swiftly going into a more somber mood with the little known “There is No Music”. She did a sparking reading of “Cheerful Little Earful” after that.
Wesla talked about how Jack Warner had approached Harry about writing something about Fred Harvey who opened restaurants at various train stops in the early 20th Century and how he trained over several hundred Harvey Girls to be waitresses at these eateries. Although Warner Brother did not make the film “The Harvey Girls” ( MGM did) she did an entertaining version of “The Train Must Be Fed. There was a gorgeous arrangement next with “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby”.
Mike Greensill a great jazz pianist in his own right took center stage singing with pitch perfect resonance two of Harry Warren’s favorite songs “You’re My Everything” and “Lulu Back in Town” and then going into one of the composers unacquainted songs ‘You’re an Education”. Wesla joined him on “I’ll String Along With You”
Wesla continued on her own with the up tempo “Whirling Dervish” and then singing “I Know Why”. Her phrasing was right on the mark. Her mellifluous voice was harmonious on the song “Horary for Spinach” followed by a lovely arrangement of “Spring Isn’t Everything”. Ending the session she sang a package of money songs consisting of “We’re In the Money” and “Plenty of Money and You”. As an encore she ended with the romantic ballad “An Affair to Remember”.
What better way to spend an evening but in a cabaret with Wesla Whitfield ? She is stylish and sophisticated—just right for the cabaret audience who wants to see the top performers. She and Mike also performed Harry Warren’s songs on Saturday the 24th.
Society Cabaret is located in Hotel Rex, Union Square, 562 Sutter Street, San Francisco. For their complete lineup go to www.societycabaret.com