Crooner of the Sea



Here I am, sitting at the helm of the World Voyager. Day 3 of my itinerary. We left the coast of Spain yesterday. Tomorrow France.

Yes, this is the first time if someone told me I was "at sea," it would be a compliment.

The determined waters of the Bay of Biscay pound away as I sip my third coffee of the morning for medicinal purposes. The sky is one huge blue-grey cloud with slivers of white. No coast in sight in any direction.

So, what could be a more appropriate time to recall Michael Craig Shapiro's never-less-than-engaging performance of last night? At 9:30 PM in the Atlas Lounge, Showtime! A New York Cabaret began for those who signed up for the Atlas Ocean Voyage "10-Night Lisbon-to London" trek.

Now for some Shapiro background. This attendee of the University of Colorado Boulder, when not letting loose vocally, is this yacht's cruise director. He also conducts weddings, organizes cocktail parties, and even hosts gastronomic pastry demonstrations. Throughout the day and night, he's seen everywhere on the boat's seven levels, making sure there's not a morose passenger within ten feet of himself.

On dry land, Mr. Shapiro also acts. In the past, he's appeared in vehicles such as the NoHo Arts Center's Yo Ho Ho! A Pirate's Christmas in North Hollywood—and I believe he was somehow involved with Pest Control: The Musical. Doublecheck that.

Well, let's start the show.

The blue-jacketed, serenely starched, white-shirted Mr. Shapiro opened with some advice he garnered from Tony Bennett: make sure your set is no longer than 45 minutes, or the audience will leave. He followed that advice, and no one left. Instead, there were screams of "Encore!" which were succumbed to.

His track list was perfectly chosen for his audience, including old chestnuts from Cole Porter to Kander and Ebb to Mama Cass, but as essayist Joseph Epstein noted, "Familiarity breeds content." Clearly, in every seat, on every couch, there were folks mouthing the lyrics of the chosen tunes.

There was a heavenly "Stairway to Heaven," a wry "They All Laughed," and a quite persuasive "You Can't Take That Away from Me."

Mr. Shapiro then captured the winsome romance of George Gershwin's "He Loves and She Loves":

"He loves and she loves and they love,

So why can't you love and I love too?

Birds love and bees love and whispering trees love,

And that's what we both should do!"

(When you have time, check out Ella Fitzgerald's take.)

Two songs later came "Just a Gigolo," Irving Caesar's 1929 adaptation of the Austrian tango "Schöner Gigolo, armer Gigolo." You might recall David Lee Roth's hit version. For this rhythmic treat, the singer pulled a traveler from San Francisco, the quite game Ms. May Lee, who was transformed in seconds from being a just delightful young woman into not a bad copy of Ginger Rogers.

A pitch-perfect "Dream a Little Dream" reminded me of a recent article declaring Mama Cass did not die from eating a ham sandwich. A sly "Sara Lee" made me hunger for the poundcake of my youth, while Mr. Shapiro's poignant rendition of "When You Wish Upon a Star" especially showed off his vocal skills. "New York, New York," meanwhile, had a sassy blonde with a drink in each hand bopping to her seat as she sang along. The audience, as noted, went wild, and the encore was a solid "My Way" that came with a concise history of the song.

Accompanied on the piano by the pleasing Dan Murphy, the song fest had now ended, and a highly contented crowd climbed up one flight to the Dome to view the stars and the moon and feel the gusts of Mediterranean winds upon their smiling faces.

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