The Two of Clubs
Billy’s Back and the Metropolitan Room’s got him
Though April showers may come your way, they bring the nightclubs that bloom in May ... and so it is another season, but this time it looks like a club evergreen has been born. The Metropolitan Room at 34 West 22nd Street, the former home of the Gotham Comedy Club, is now open for business. It’s backed by the Mazzilli Brothers who have an impressive history of starting, building, and expanding live entertainment venues in New York. And this room jumped out of the starting blocks with the smart booking of Billy Stritch, who not only brought his rendition of The Mel Torme Songbook to galvanize the opening of the club, he also brought the crowd that gives a place a hot reputation. At his opening we saw TV’s Linda Lavin. At later shows during the weekend we heard that Liza Minnelli stopped in – several times! Other celebrities also paid their respects – as did a slew of press, including the NY Times. That will put a room on the map mighty quick.
Mr. Stritch did his part. An exciting jazz pianist, he has the kind of rare musicianship necessary to pull off a tribute to someone as talented as Torme. Whether paying homage to Torme’s groundbreaking arrangements for songs like "Too Close For Comfort," or performing some of the signature songs made famous by "The Velvet Fog," such as "You’re Driving Me Crazy," Stritch was never out of his element or out of his depth.
A lifelong fan of Torme, Stritch peppered his show with a mix of basic biographical information and well-delivered lesser known anecdotes. In short, the patter was pleasing. And so were the performances of songs like "Born to be Blue," and especially "Mountain Greenery." In these and other songs, Stritch put music first and lyrics second, opting for Torme’s stylistic wizardry over excavating new meaning in the words.
There is much meaning in the following words, however: Billy Stritch sings "The Mel Torme Songbook" is coming back to The Metropolitan Room starting Thursday, June 1st through Sunday, June 4th, all shows will be at 8 PM except the last show on Sunday which will be at 7 PM.
Tedi Marsh is here!
If you saw Terrence McNally’s play Dedication or The Stuff of Dreams you might get a handle on what cabaret artist Tedi Marsh is all about. You see, she’s one of those rarest of all musical theater people: she was working all the time. Except she was working out of town, putting on plays for a local theater company. She performed outside the glare of Michael Riedel, Talkin’ Broadway, and most other theater folk. But she worked.
When she was barely twenty, Marsh was on a show business fast track singing backup for Gloria Gaynor and working as a studio backup singer on a Hall & Oates album. Show business is, in fact, in her blood. Her grandparents were vaudeville performers. Marsh married and raised a family but kept on singing. But with her kids grown, she finally came to New York to tickle the dream that still fires her imagination. Late last year she became a backup singer in the Off-Broadway Christmas Divas show that starred, among others, Ellen Greene. And then Marsh started performing a solo cabaret act.
Her solo work recently culminated in an ambitious trilogy of shows with the over-arching title of Somewhere There’s Music. One of her three shows was pop/rock, the second was jazz, and the third was dedicated to Broadway show tunes. She performed them as a sort of one-person cabaret repertory company, putting them all on in a two week whirlwind. Naturally, we opted to see the musical theater show at Don’t Tell Mama. It was called Tedi Belts Broadway and one could tell that the barnstorming nature of her shows was taking its toll on her; the show had its ragged moments. But you could also see that she was gallantly trying to make up for lost time. And there was something rather magnificent about that. If her belt was a little harsh, her ballads were quite lovely. She did a sweet "Funny Valentine," an utterly lovely take on "How High the Moon," and dug in her heels and gave a gutsy performance of "Back to Before" from Ragtime.
The patter in Tedi Belts Broadway played too much to an audience that already knew her. We wonder how the show would play to an audience of strangers. We suspect that Tedi Marsh will find out. She performs with dedication. She understands the stuff of dreams.
A Diva’s Return
And then there is the Diva who did conquer Broadway, left it, but is now back in New York and belting like nobody’s business. We’re talking about Teri Klausner, who was in the original Great White Way casts of A Chorus Line and Evita. We saw her at The Duplex earlier this week in a solo act that was, at once, nostalgic and totally present. In other words, while she performed a number of her signature theater songs (how could she not?), the show was largely devoted to songs both new and old that she simply wanted to sing.
To that end, her taste was a little erratic. She sang the occasional pop song that didn’t seem worthy of her talent. But more often than not she settled into the richness of songs like "Anywhere I Hang My Hat Is Home," or displayed her remarkable pipes and vocal control with a song like "Hit Me With a Hot Note."
Her patter was as impressive as her voice. She had great theater war stories and shared them unselfconsciously and with a flair for comic timing. Her tales not only entertained, they also set songs up to be heard in exactly the context that she wanted. She performed with a trio led admirably by pianist Steve Marzullo. We’ll look forward to seeing – and hearing - Ms. Klausner in the clubs and theaters of New York with ever-greater frequency.
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