Mary Cleere Haran Celebrates the Genius of Johnny Mercer

Mary Cleere Haran
Feinstein’s at Loew’s Regency

Celebrating the centennial year of the genius lyrics of Johnny Mercer (he would be 100 on Nov. 18), the sophisticated cabaret star Mary Cleere Haran is serving up a banquet of musical delicacies at Feinstein’s at Loew’s Regency. For a hip New York component of everything cool, this soignée vocalist, once an Irish Catholic hippie from San Francisco, is so adaptable to songs she really loves that she even conjures the nostalgia of Mr. Mercer’s native Savannah with what sounds like a Southern drawl. There’s honeysuckle in the air when she croons “Moon River,” and with a voice shimmering and polished as Sunday night silverware, she tweets her way through a verdant backyard Georgia barbecue on “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” with such aplomb that you can visualize every character at the party. Instead of a string of tunes, she delves deeper. To illustrate Mercer’s darker side—his drinking, depression and late-night insults followed by guilty roses the next morning—there’s a haunting “Days of Wine and Roses.” Talking about his inheritance of his mother’s love of empty train whistles, she turns out a haunting “Blues in the Night” and continues with two of his greatest movie songs about trains, both from the Technicolor musical The Harvey Girls. “Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” and “It’s a Great Big World” are also telling tributes to Judy Garland, and Mercer’s love affair with her, from which he never recovered. Her reconstruction of the three choruses sung by Judy, Virginia O’Brien and Cyd Charisse on “It’s a Great Big World” is so cleverly done that it becomes a mini-version of an MGM musical with everything but the camera angles. From the wrenching “When the World Was Young” to the bouncy “Jeepers Creepers,” every aspect of Johnny Mercer is revealed; these songs fit Ms. Haran’s relaxed style like kid gloves. With hundreds of favorites in the prodigious Mercer catalog, it is impossible to cover them all, and I admit I missed my all-time favorite, “This Time the Dream’s on Me.” But it’s a show chock-full of classic gems. I have no reservations about Mary Cleere Haran. This time, the dream’s on her. 

Mary Cleere Haran Celebrates the Genius of  Johnny Mercer