What comes to mind when the name Susan Anton is mentioned? How about: tall, blond and beautiful with a spectacular smile; or maybe the 1979 movie "Goldengirl" or the TV series "Baywatch"; and what about that Perfect Buns infomercial?
All of those, for sure, but not necessarily singing, even though Anton has spent the past five years or so as a guest star with the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes in Las Vegas and has headlined at Manhattan's Rainbow & Stars cabaret room. But neither those appearances nor a hit album in Japan has exactly brought her to the forefront of the music world.
So it's not surprising that skepticism was in the air when she opened a two-week run at the Cinegrill on Wednesday. But all doubts were swept aside before she had finished her first number. That's how long it took for Anton to make a convincing case for herself as a first-rate musical talent, her warm and supple voice enhanced by an intelligent, imaginative performing style.
Moving easily from rich, confident blues phrasing that recalled the best of Bonnie Bramlett, she was warm and intimate with inner-looking numbers such as "In My Life," touchingly sensitive with special items such as "For My Wedding" and "The Things We've Handed Down."
Her program, in fact, was a winner on all counts: the far-ranging choice of material, with selections from Bob Dylan and Lennon-McCartney as well as a number of compelling songs from unfamiliar songwriters; a superb and completely empathetic musical setting provided by a quintet that has worked with Anton for more than a decade; and, above all, Anton's upfront skill, her easygoing manner and warm communication. Looks may count and they've obviously taken Anton a long way, but it's her unexpectedly stunning musical talent that makes her vastly more than just another pretty face.
* Susan Anton at the Cinegrill, Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, 7000 Hollywood Blvd. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 and 10:30 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday at 8 p.m. Through Nov. 4. $22 and $25, two-drink minimum. (323) 466-7000.