New York — Two of the grand ladies of American popular song, Rosemary Clooney and Margaret Whiting, are singing together for the first time here at the opening of the New Ballroom, formerly SoHo's Ballroom Restaurant. The two have been touring with the popular ''4 Girls 4'' (with Rose Marie and Helen O'Connell) but never actually sang as a pair in that act.
The New Ballroom with its low-key, elegant atmosphere and excellent sound and lighting was the perfect setting for Clooney and Whiting, and the show they put on was filled with warmth, humor, and nostalgia. ''Fancy Meeting You Here'' is the title of the Clooney-Whiting act, and it's a wonderful meeting of two seasoned performers who know how to make a song seem like a conversation, with each word expressing the thought behind it.
The evening provided a nice balance between the ballads and up-tempo numbers, and especially lovely among the ballads were ''Sophisticated Lady,'' sung by Miss Whiting, which segued into Rosemary Clooney's ''Have I Stayed Too Long at the Fair?'' A medley chock-full of bits and pieces of great standards like ''Sleepy Time Gal,'' ''Nice Work If You Can Get It,'' ''They All Laughed,'' and Margaret's famous ''My Ideal'' was a joyful smorgasbord - albeit a little lengthy and too piecemeal. One couldn't help wanting to hear, for example, the rest of Rosemary's heartfelt version of ''I've Got a Crush on You'' - not just eight bars!
The arrangements of pianist Tex Arnold for piano, bass, drums, guitar, and synthesizer were adequate, if somewhat pedestrian, and the synthesized string section detracted rather than added to the performance. The inclusion of numbers like the recent rock hit ''Just the Two of Us'' and the disco-like underpinning on ''I Get a Kick Out of You'' seemed unnecessary, and one can't help but wonder why the good old standards - Clooney's and Whiting's forte - aren't good enough by themselves. ''Fancy Meeting You Here'' will continue with two shows nightly until Nov. 29.