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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Terese Genecco Captivates the Audience with
Drunk with Love: A Tribute to Frances Faye

Drunk With Love
Terese Genecco
Terese Genecco, Bay Area Cabaret 2003 Entertainer of the Year, is currently captivating the audience in her tribute to Frances Faye. The artist does not take on the complete manner of this great singer of the '40s and '50s but sings the songs that made this unusual singer famous. Throughout much of the '40s, Francis, also known as Fran, toured her act around the world and in the '50s she became a television personality and a recording artist. Fran went against the norm of appearing in smart black dresses, big hairdos and flowers surrounding her. She became a rebel in appearance sporting a very short hairstyle. She would not wear gowns or wigs and she always greeted her audience both on television and in clubs with "What does it matter how I wear my hair, as long as I'm pretty?" One could almost say that she had a forerunner of a lesbian look.

Frances Faye continued to perform until 1981 with her last show here in San Francisco. I saw the energetic singer several times in Los Angeles and she always brought down the house with her amazing energy and well trained jazz voice. Her act was fully of comedy and sometimes she would just sing musical bits and pieces of a song and then go into her main melody. Her shows were always full of chaos and you never knew what was coming next. She was one savvy performer.

Teresa Genecco gives a good appearance of what it would have been like to see Francis Faye in a club in the '50s. The intimate theatre in the New Conservatory Theatre Center complex has been decorated like a mini El Morocco, with six tables in front of the audience to give it a cabaret friendly atmosphere. Teresa has a great sextet backing her which she calls "The Little Big Band." It's a good title for these talented jazz musicians. The arrangements are swinging and full of life. Sometimes Teresa, who is also a great jazz pianist, plays the piano and sometimes Barry Lloyd takes over the keyboards when she sings in front of the audience.

Teresa has a voice like Betty Hutton mixed with Bette Midler. She reminds me of what Texas Guinan would have been like during those roaring prohibition days of the '20s. She loves to throw out repetitive zingers to the audience and the band. However, I thought some of these were rehearsed asides such as "don't you just love this band," which she repeats many times.

Ms. Genecco performs a great fast-paced 100-minute show with an intermission in this very small theatre that seats around 40. She opens at the piano, playing a jazzy melody with the orchestra rockin' the audience. She segues into George and Ira Gershwin's "The Man I Love" with a distinctive conga beat. The artist gets up from the keyboard to sing a swinging arrangement of David Rose's "Tonight You Belong to Me" followed by Burt Bacharach's "The Look of Love." All of this on high power, almost leaving you exhausted.

One of the most interesting combinations in the program is a group of three ethnic songs, with Teresa moving effortlessly into each melody in traditional styles of Jewish, Irish and Italian tunes. Teresa does not belt out every song but she caresses a Frances Faye-composed song called "Purple Wine," and "Lonesome Road" written by the team of Austin/Shilkret. She is also great in Ms. Faye's signature song, Bruz Fletcher's "Drunk with Love." Though she states she is not going to sing the other signature song, John Davenport and Eddie Cooley's "Fever," since Peggy Lee made it popular, she goes into it after playing around with other melodies on the ivory keys. Teresa concludes the program with one of Frances' great fun songs called "Frances and Her Friends." It's a toe-tapping song.

The singer talks a little about Frances Faye's life between sets. She tells of a time here in our city when Frances bailed Robert Mitchum (before he was famous) from our city jail since he did not have $100 bail bond money.

Drunk with Love can still be considered a work in progress; it could stand to be tightened, especially the off-the-cuff remarks to the audience. Terese will be at the Cabaret Convention in New York in October along with several club dates in Manhattan. She will also be appearing at the new Rose Hall at Lincoln Center as well as presenting Drunk with Love at the Encore in Manhattan. Gene Price of the San Francisco Bay Times said "One of the most engrossing, all out talented performances I've seen in years of reviewing San Francisco cabaret," and I agree.

Terese Genecco will be performing at the small theatre in the NCTC building located at 25 Van Ness Ave, just off Market, in San Francisco through August 14. For tickets please call 415-861-8972 or online at www.nctcsf.org.

NCTC opens its Silver Anniversary Season 5th with the west coast premiere of Dangerous by Tom Smith, a modern all male retelling of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, which runs through September 11. Wesley Whitfield opens in the small theatre on August 20th and plays there through August 28th.


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema



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