The Two of Clubs
Now That Wasn't Such a Bad Idea
It's dangerous to name your musical revue Bad Ideas; critics can be so very, very tempted. But not us. While not entirely successful, Bad Ideas (book, music and lyrics by Joshua Z. Kant) turned out to be a surprisingly sweet-tempered musical satire about a retiring songwriting team that wrote thirty shows without a single hit. Performing some of their most memorable tunes for their friends at a fictional farewell concert, the team of Wally Doggett and Arthur Katz (and four other cohorts) give us some rather cleverly ill-conceived songs.
Erick Devine (as Doggett) and William Ryall (as Katz) provide most of the humor and charm. Ryall, in particular, is a very sly and sophisticated performer who has the ability to ground the most outrageous material in genuine reality. His rendition of "Animal Man" is a scream. Devine's best moment is his sincere performance of "The Country of Circles and Squares."
The piece, performed at The Duplex, felt like a work in progress. What made it endearing, however, even in its dull spots, was the remarkable lack of bitterness exhibited by these two failures. These are two men who devoted their lives to musical theater but they never found their audience. What they found, finally, was some comfort in the process. For all its insider jokes and elbow-poking ironies, it's the tone of the piece that is most enchanting.
And sometimes, with all the best intentions, a show will turn out to be dreck. Witness The Dentist, a labored farce - also at The Duplex - that huffs and puffs its way through endless attempts to elicit laughter. Though it takes place in a cabaret space, The Dentist is really a play (we're supposed to say it's a comedy but we just can't do it). The show has a large cast with at least one actor we could both agree was a cut above - Hezekiah James Toft. Written by Jason Kendall and directed by Jerry Marco, the play was, indeed, very much like a trip to the dentist.
Whether you enjoy musical theater or piano bars (or both), you've no doubt noticed the pell-mell rush into pop and rock on big stages and small. Traditional show tunes are certainly getting shorter and shorter shrift. At this rate, pretty soon they'll be Schraft's (if you catch our drift). It was therefore a pleasant surprise to find ourselves at a musical revue at Upstairs at Rose's Turn devoted entirely to songs from musical theater. The name of the show was Summer Stock and it had the added charm of being put on by the Rose's Turn staff. Simply put, they're a talented bunch.
Bright and breezy direction by Michael Dionne was the signature of the evening as a show neatly balanced between old and new, ballad and uptempo, and comedy and drama took shape in the performances of more than half a dozen players. Happily, nobody crashed and burned, and even more happily, many of them re-emphasized for us the amazing truth that New York is absolutely crammed with people working as waiters, waitresses and bartenders who should be starring in shows. The standouts in Summer Stock included Joe Ardizzone, Peter Genyo, Sean Bernardi, Leslie Anderson, Danny Onzo, Kelly Howe, and Michael Dionne.
We mentioned William Ryall in our review, above, of Bad Ideas, but he's also starring in his own cabaret act at Danny's Skylight Room called Flying Cars and Falling Chandeliers on Mondays, August 8th and 15th at 9:15 PM. Ryall, a long-time working Broadway actor, is presently in the cast of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but the last time we saw him in a cabaret act of his own, he absolutely knocked us out. Can't wait to see what he's up to ...
Wow! August 24th and August 31st at 9:15 PM, Nightlife Award-winning Jazz Legend Annie Ross will be appearing at Danny's Skylight Room. At Town Hall, film director Robert Altman presented her with the Jazz Legend Award and what a coup for Danny's that she'll be appearing there.
On two separate occasions we saw The Fabulous Pink Flamingos perform at Jim Caruso's Cast Party. The first time we saw this comically and musically adept threesome perform, we thought they were very good. The second time we thought they were, well, "fabulous." So, we're making plans to catch their last show at The Encore on Monday, August 8th at 9:30 PM.
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