Cape Cod’s Own American Idol Wows With Tribute to American Icons

COURTESY C.M. JONES Siobhan Magnus and Mark Mahar in concert singing selections from the American Songbook this week.

Siobhan Magnus and Mark Mahar in concert singing selections from the American Songbook this week.


For those of us lucky enough to avoid the weekly exodus, which is the best thing about living on Cape Cod, not leaving when the rest of them do, life gets even better when there’s something going on Sunday night.

That something Sunday was a sold-out performance of Siobhan Magnus and Mark Mahar singing Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and the Great American Songbook, backed by the six-member, 10-instrument Boston Swing and adored by 400 guests who packed the Ballroom at Ocean Edge Resort.

“Everyone’s loving it,” Brewster resident Mary Lou Foley said during intermission as husband Jim Foley, the selectman, nodded his agreement, “and I don’t know why they wouldn’t be! It’s fantastic. They sound great.”

Music lovers and just plain lovers flocked at 7:30 inside the old Nickerson mansion between Main Street and Cape Cod Bay, cooled by central air, slaked by a cash bar and treated for two hours to two dozen of old familiar favorites, so-called standards, mostly from about 50 years ago, a genre enjoying resurgent popularity, and not just among grandparents.

For Foley as with most of the crowd, the draw was Magnus, a popular favorite locally since her success five years ago on the TV show American Idol. “I saw her at the town festival in Harwich last week,” Foley said. What she loves most about the young singer is that her vocal range is as wide as Foley’s taste in music, ranging from rock to jazz.

For the uninitiated, what Siobhan Magnus can do with her voice is borderline surreal, her highs and lows (and all the in-betweens) sounding like a musical instrument with infinite range. To hear Magnus sing is to understand the word moniker songbird, used for, among others, the so-named “Swedish Nightingale” Jenny Lind.

Witty, easy-to-understand lyrics touching on universal themes frequently of the heart, put to melodies that defy standing still or at least not snapping your fingers, these are the Songbook qualities that made household names of the Kahns, the Gershwins, Rogers, Hart, Nat King Cole and Cole Porter, just to name a few.

Ella and Frank sang from the Songbook as solo acts, duets with one another at various stages of their careers, in recording studios and on Broadway, as part of another duet, another band, another record label; likewise, about half the set of songs performed Sunday were Magnus solo, others were Mahar solos and duets; all were strong.

Mahar has a flair for Sinatra, not just his voice, which is Frank-ish without the heavy Bayonne accent (unless he needs it), but also his mannerisms, his schtick. “Wow…” he said after Magnus finished a lusty, sultry rendition of Fever, “that was awesome…I have the best seat in the house.”

His medley of Mack the Knife as performed alternately by Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis, Jr., Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, especially Dean Martin, brought down the house.

“I love it, too,” cooed Siobhan to her handsome co-star.

If she is not exactly a veteran stage performer at this point in her quarter century, Magnus was magnificent: humble, happy, gorgeous in each of the two body-hugging gowns she sported for the show, and gracious at every turn as she thanked Ocean Edge for having us, her family for attending and Barnstable High for its “great music program.” Her thank you list extended all the way to Mick Carlin, her 7th Grade music teacher, who got credit for introducing the songstress to the standards, and to whom she dedicated Autumn in New York. “I love you, Siobhan!” he thanked her back.

It was a full room full of love, acoustically sound, professionally lighted and noticeably bereft of those gadgets that all kids hold, a world-class production unbroken by commercial interruption for 120 minutes. They started fittingly with Magnus singing A Foggy Day, then Summerwind, Fly Me to the Moon, Nature Boy (him), Summertime (her), The Way You Look Tonight, I’ll Be Seeing You, Someone to Watch Over Me (her), It’s Only a Paper Moon (which Magnus did recently in Provincetown with Zoe Lewis, So Young (him, for her), Night and Day (him), and together Cole Porter’s I Get a Kick Out of You (which they seemed to mean).

The second set began with Magnus in her second gown, a flowing, gold number with Embraceable You, and included Straighten Up and Fly Right (duet), My Funny Valentine (her), A Tisket, A Tasket (her), Nice ‘n Easy (him) Lady is a Tramp (duet), All of Me (him), and At Last, as in, “and you are mine at last,” a song from 1941 that worked just as well this Sunday on Cape Cod.


  1. Great review Jeff! You really captured how awesome this performance was!

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