By the time it closed in 1975, the Persian Room at the Plaza Hotel had featured a luminous roster of stars on its stage over the decades; these included Liberace, Carol Channing, Burl Ives, Eddy Duchin, Kitty Carlisle, the Mills Brothers, Bob Fosse, Victor Borge, Marge and Gower Champion, Eddie Fisher, Xavier Cugat, the McGuire Sisters, Dinah Shore, Vic Damone, Bob Hope, Robert Goulet, Frankie Laine, Ethel Merman, Eartha Kitt, Henny Youngman, Liza Minnelli, Peggy Lee, Andy Williams, Kay Thompson, Vikki Carr, Julie Wilson, Diahann Carroll, Hildegarde, Lisa Kirk, Celeste Holm, and the first and only club act by Elsa Lanchester, among others. Since that time, it has metamorphosed into the world-famous Rose Club, a perfectly elegant space identified by the marble staircase leading to it from the lobby and the plush couches upon which to enjoy a cocktail or a nibble. As such, the spirits of entertainers and performances past linger throughout the space. Which, as it happens, only serves bandsinger Kat Gang in greater stead as she appears there every Wednesday night at 9 PM for an open-ended run, even though she hardly needs any assistance to shine as a nightlife standout.
In her show, entitled An Evening of Elegance, the stately and nearly-heartbreakingly-beautiful Ms. Gang is joined by the jazzy trio of Joe Young on guitar, Julian Smith on upright bass and Shawn Balthazor on drums, and never once does the group disappoint for an instant. After the combo sets a musical tone for the evening with a very impressive rendition of “I Remember You,” Gang assumes her rightful place at the microphone and bewitches the crowd with “Cheek to Cheek,” and the dazzling lilt possessed by her vocal pipes is never anything less than utterly enchanting. She proves equally impressive with two Gershwin numbers performed back to back, namely “They Can’t Take That Away” and “Embraceable You,” and when she tears into Arlen and Mercer’s classic “That Old Black Magic,” she clearly establishes herself as one of the finds of the season. There are moments where she’s oddly reminiscent of Sylvia Tosun, a cabaret chanteuse of similar physicality who scored a triumph at Eighty Eight’s in the mid-1990s, but Gang seems to have more than that, namely an indescribable charisma. She only serves to top herself further with “Sway” by Pablo Bertran Ruiz and a scat-laden “All of Me,” and by the time she’s extricating herself from the stage with “My Baby Just Cares” by Walter Donaldson, it’s clear that the audience (which that night included Jamie deRoy, Terese Genecco, Roy Sander and Ward Morehouse III) know as one that they’ve just witnessed the breakout performance of a serious contender.
Kat Gang and An Evening of Elegance seem to have no plan to vacate the Rose Club anytime soon. A more pleasant diversion from life’s hardships couldn’t possibly be had (or so thoroughly savored) by anyone in the New York area.