Music lovers were treated
to two sassy and unconventional shows this past week.
Courtney Graves in Concert in a show at the Metropolitan
Room called "My Perfect Night" and Christine Noll, Robert
Cuccioli, Linda Eder, Lillias White, Chuck Cooper, Karen
Ziemba, Christina Blanco, Christine Andreas and others in
"Broadway By The Year: The Broadway Musicals of 1997,"
produced by Town Hall. Taken together, in a play on the
subtitle of Mr. Graves' show, they were my perfect night.
You don't have to be a cabaret fan to love Mr. Graves' "My
Perfect Night." which included classic Broadway songs like
"Lover Come Back to Me" by Sigmund Romberg & Oscar
Hammerstein II (far better know for being the lyricist for
such musicals as "Carousel" and "Oklahoma!") and "I'm a Fool
to Want You," believed to be the only song Frank
Sinatra ever wrote (with Jack Wolf and Joel Herron).
But the high points of "Night" were the Brazilian
rhythms Mr. Graves and composer/arranger Bill Brendle (www.bbrendle.com
) used in Mr. Graves' renditions of "This Could Be the Start
of Something Big," written by the late talk show
host/composer Steve Allen, "Too Close for Comfort",
"Caramel" and "Night Song." Very entertaining!
I also enjoyed his
rendition of "I'm Gonna Live 'til I Die" by Al Hoffman,
Walter Kent and Manny Kurtz and made world famous by the one
and only and still very much singing and living legend Julie
Accompanying Mr. Graves June 18 were Preston Smith, pianist;
Sebastiao Apolinario, percussionist; Dave Jackson, bass;
sax and flute. Alva Nelson will sub for Preston Smith in Mr.
second "Night" at the Metropolitan Room, 34 W. 22 St. on
Thursday, June 30 at 7 pm. And Vita Wallace will join them
then on violin and
It should be noted that Mr. Graves is new to the world of
New York cabaret and could use some some seasoning in future
appearances. Yet he has a highly- appealing earnestness and
love of the material which is infectious. I have no idea
Graves will go after The Metropolitan Room. His sunnily
may be no match for those of veterans such as Michael
Feinstein, Steve Ross or KT Sullivan. But his understated
exuberance, good looks and clever and tasteful approach to
his selections from both the Broadway songbook and pop
classics bode a promising future indeed.
I remember the Broadway
musicals of 1997 very well indeed as I was a Broadway
columnist of the New York Post at the time. They were a
mixed bag from a show such as "The Lion King" which became a
mega hit, and "Steel Pier," "Dream," and "Triumph of Love,"
all of which had comparatively short runs. All the more
reason why many bouquets are in order for a magnificent
night of songs from "The Broadway Musicals of 1997," part of
the Broadway by the Year series at Town Hall. As directed by
Christiane Noll, who also starred in numbers from "Steel
Pier" and "Jekyll & Hyde," among others, this was the
richest, most romantic theatrical evening I've spent on
Broadway almost since ... well, 1997!
Dozens of theatergoers like me just hated to see the evening
Town Hall June 20. But, wait! It was part of Town Hall's
Anniversary that features Town Hall's Fifth Annual Summer
Festival in July, created, written and hosted by Mr. Siegel.
includes "Broadway Winners" on July 11 and, and "Broadway's
Stars" on July 18.
"Having assembled this cast of 14 exceptional talents to
perform 23 of
1997's most memorable (Broadway) songs has been a labor of
love," said Scott Siegel. "To that end, I'm delighted that
we accomplished quite a number of firsts ...: this is the
first time the three stars of 'Jekyll & Hyde' were reunited
on stage to perform together since they were on Broadway
together in their show. This is the directorial debut of
Christiane Noll. And this is the
first time in the history of
By the Year' that we
had seven original stars recreate a total of
eleven songs ...
"Yet even with such
exceptional talents there were
performances which brought the house down -- and some to
their feet. Among these were Lillias White singing "The
Oldest Profession" from "The Life," Chuck Cooper singing
"Don't Take Much," also from "The Life," Christinne Andreas
singing "When I Look at You" from "The
Scarlet Pimpernel" and Christina Bianco singing "Can Your
Feel the Love Tonight" from "The Lion King."
These performers and the others beautifully convinced me
there were bright and shining musical gems in a
comparatively lackluster Broadway season. Moreover, "The
Broadway Musicals of 1997" made me think seriously that a
few shows such as "The Life," and "Jekyll and Hyde" should
be revived in all their original glory in the current
On the other hand, some shows from 1997, such as "Dream,"
starred the late incomparable Marguaret Whiting with songs
"Goody Goody" and "Too Marvelous for Words" by the equally
incomparable Johnny Mercer, are best left to concerts such
as in "Broadway By the Year" series created, written and
hosted by Scott Siegel.. Finally, bravos for Ross
Patterson's musical direction and Jeffry Denman's
choreography which helped make "The Broadway Musicals of
1997" one of the most entertaining shows on or off Broadway
this or any season.