Dazzling debut of David Lawrence and Debbie Gravitte in ‘A Toast to Steve & Eydie’ at NYC’s Carnegie Hall

On March 7, at the age of 88, American singer and actor Steve Lawrence (1935-2024) succumbed to complications from Alzheimer’s disease, but his legacy lives on in the recordings of his acclaimed performances, as half of the legendary duo with his wife of 56 years Eydie Gormé (1928-2013), and in the live concert A Toast to Steve & Eydie, a dazzling two-act celebration of the iconic couple’s classic songs, lives, and careers, which made its one-night-only Carnegie Hall debut in Zankel Hall on Monday, March 18, to a packed house of effusive longtime fans.

Debbie Gravitte and David Lawrence. Photo by Russ Rowland.

Conceived by and starring their son David Lawrence, an Emmy-nominated composer and gifted singer in his own right, and Tony-winning actress and singer Debbie Gravitte, his friend and collaborator of 35 years (since, she joked, she was five), the show (written by Tony Award winner Robert L. Freedman and Faye Greenberg, Lawrence’s talented wife) pays tribute to Steve & Eydie’s timeless music and engaging personalities, recreating their signature stylings, humor, and chemistry, and sharing personal anecdotes about them, interspersed between the numbers. The selection of nineteen songs and two medleys, all with their original orchestrations, included some of the duo’s most popular hits and records, beloved standards from the Great American Songbook, and a collection of renowned Gershwin tunes, performed as alternating solos and duets, and backed by a top-notch 30-piece orchestra led by musical director Tedd Firth on piano.

Under the fluid direction of Lonny Price and Matt Cowart, the genial stage partners emulated the vintage looks, moves, and vocals of the illustrious multi-award-winning couple, singing and swinging to their songs with handheld mics, sitting, standing, and naturally interacting with one another, and embracing their distinctive deliveries with spot-on feeling and mastery, while embodying the elegance and glamour of the era – Lawrence in black tie, Gravitte in a black wig and gown of white sequins and feathers designed by Anthony Hankin (which, David told us, was worn by his mother) and black palazzo pants and a sparkling black-and-silver full-length jacket by Bob Mackie.

David Lawrence and Debbie Gravitte. Photo by Russ Rowland.

Enhanced throughout by the beautiful lighting of Matt Berman, the show opened with a rich orchestral overture of what was to come, followed by an appropriately upbeat duet on “This Could Be the Start of Something Big.” It was. Lawrence brought his seemingly effortless, smooth, and debonair voice and resonant long notes to such classics as “A Room without Windows” (from the Broadway musical What Makes Sammy Run?, which garnered his father a Tony nomination), “My Heart Stood Still,” and a jazzy “I’ve Gotta Be Me,” suavely moving his arm and snapping his fingers in the familiar manner of his dad. Gravitte’s powerful belting and swaying to the beat of the music evoked the expressive flair of Eydie, from her scatting on “One Note Samba” to the emotional “I Wanna Be Around” and an impassioned “What Did I Have.”

Together they delivered blockbuster harmonies in their simpatico renditions of “Come Back to Me” and “Cheek to Cheek,” comical versions of “Darn It Baby” and “The Honeymoon Is Over,” and a “Record Medley” of some of the best-selling songs of Steve & Eydie’s careers, including “Together, Wherever We Go,” “More,” “Blame It on the Bossa Nova,” and “Go Away Little Girl” – the last with funny lyrics that noted the changing ages of the titular “girl.” Also shining a spotlight on the late couple’s laugh-out-loud repartee, sense of humor, and love of mid-century schtick was a segment of jokes culled from the archives (of 29 boxes, with 1000 cards in each), giving David and Debbie the opportunity to display their own comic chops, much to the delight of the audience.

Debbie Gravitte and David Lawrence. Photo by Russ Rowland.

Act II began with an audiotape of the prodigious nine-year-old David singing “On a Clear Day” and hitting all the big notes at his parents’ 1969 show in Las Vegas, followed by the adult David performing it live in the refined mature voice that clearly evinces the influence of his father, and later with “In the Still of the Night,” building to a fervent crescendo. Gravitte returned with a sensational solo on “Too Close for Comfort,” Eydie’s first big hit, then also covered the down tempo “Guess Who I Saw Today” and the ardent “If He Walked into My Life.” Their second-act duets featured “Who Wouldn’t Love You,” the song Debbie sang to David and Faye at their wedding, holding hands to the romantic “That’s All,” and closing with a chock-full Gershwin medley of more than a dozen tunes, inspired by Steve & Eydie’s tribute show to the prolific composer, which brought down the house and brought Lawrence, Gravitte, and the stellar orchestra a standing ovation.

They returned for a poignant audience sing-along to “Our Love Is Here to Stay” – dedicated to Steve and expressing the perfect sentiment for their heartfelt homage to the enduring music he made with Eydie. To quote David at the concert’s emotional end, “What a night!” Yes, it was.

Running Time: Approximately two hours, including an intermission.

A Toast to Steve & Eydie played on Monday, March 18, 2024, at Carnegie Hall, Zankel Hall, 881 Seventh Avenue, NYC.


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