Travis Moser used to envision New York as a wonderland of tuxedos, supper clubs and cocktails. As is the case for most transplants, however, he said the reality of day-to-day life in the city set in shortly after he relocated from Pennsylvania to Manhattan in 2006.
Of course, none of that made Moser’s fantasy take on a bygone era less appealing. The singer hopes to transport audience members to a more glamorous New York when he takes the Feinstein’s/54 Below stage on May 4. (Check out a video of him performing "This Can't Be Love/Thou Swell" at top.)
Moser said his show, “This Can’t Be Love: The Songs of Rodgers and Hart,” will offer a “glimpse into my idea of what New York was before I moved here.” As its title suggests, the show is dedicated to composers Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, who wrote more than 500 songs together from 1919 until 1943. He’ll be joined onstage by special guests Samantha Shafer, who appeared on Broadway in “Rocky" and the 2009 Broadway revival of “West Side Story,” and Laura Fraenkel of The Jersey Follettes.
The 31-year-old Moser is no stranger to the Rodgers and Hart repertoire. He said the first CD he ever owned was “Bobby Short Celebrates Rodgers and Hart,” and his passion for the songwriting duo’s work has never waned. In February, he released a live album which captured an earlier version of the show he’d performed at New York’s Metropolitan Room. That set featured classics like “My Funny Valentine,” “My Romance” and “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.”
A portion of the May 4 show’s proceeds will be donated to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (BC/EFA), a non-profit group dedicated to AIDS-related causes across the country, and is is Moser’s version of “the ultimate Rodgers and Hart playlist.” The revamped evening will feature some new orchestrations as well as mashups.
“They’re two of the first writers who wrote how people actually spoke,” Moser told The Huffington Post. “I want to prove how modern they were as composers.”
The composers, he said, couldn’t have been more different in their approach to their art, which, ironically, made for terrific music that resonates with him now as much as it did with his teen self.
“Richard Rodgers was a very traditional, straightforward hard worker with a family, while Lorenz Hart was basically a raging alcoholic,” Moser said. He likened Hart to one of his personal heroes, Elaine Stritch, in that both artists gave audiences the impression that they “knew a little bit more about the world and its charms” in their work. “Hart knew the ups and downs of life in a time when people were a lot more optimistic,” he said.
We're sure both Stritch and Hart would approve of an evening of classic songs and cocktails for a great cause. It doesn't get much more New York than that.
Travis Moser performs "This Can't Be Love: The Songs of Rodgers and Hart" at New York's Feinstein's/54 Below on May 4. Head here for more details.