Songs That Rock the Boat, With Heart and Soul, Too

On the face of it, Frank Loesser, one of Broadway´s all-time great wielders of urban slang, and Karen Oberlin, a demure pop-jazz singer who radiates a subdued glamour, are not a natural fit. Had he lived in a later time, Loesser, who died in 1969, might have turned a Martin Scorsese movie like “Raging Bull” into a hard-boiled pop opera. Nothing about Ms. Oberlin, whose tribute to Loesser, “Heart and Soul: A Centenary Celebration of Frank Loesser,” is playing at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel, could be described as hard-boiled. She is no smoldering Vikki LaMotta. Nor could I imagine her in “Guys and Dolls,” playing Miss Adelaide, whose comic signature song, “Adelaide´s Lament,” is conspicuously missing from this show. (Sarah Brown, yes.)

But there are other aspects to Loesser besides the wisecracking pre-Beat poet of “Guys and Dolls.” And in “Heart and Soul” Ms. Oberlin concentrates on Loesser´s softer-edged zaniness and on his unjustly neglected romantic side. Several of Loesser´s great ballads

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