[article as originally published in Theater Pizzazz, May 11, 2017.]
Broadway performances past and present were evoked in the newest “Jamie deRoy & Friends” cabaret show on the intimate Birdland stage. This established, curated, and regular series of ensemble shows hosted by the personable deRoy has appeared in a range of venues around town. Sunday’s show took its theme from the theater awards season and the Tonys, featuring award winners and aspirants from across the years who delivered rare tunes from forgotten shows as well as beloved standards.
Our hostess with the silver locks, Jamie deRoy, exuded (as always) warmth and charm and grand curatorial instincts as she and the set list led us through laughter and tears. Quirks of the evening were embraced as in a reunion – a visiting family from Germany brought their talkative three-year-old, whose happy chirps from the first row punctuated performances, binding the audience together. Director Barry Kleinbort (whose deep musical knowledge was credited by deRoy with the joking introduction “before there was Google there was Barry Kleinbort”), music director Ron Abel at the piano until replaced by Billy Stritch as the evening wore down, and Tom Hubbard on bass accompanied each singer with deft skill.
Doreen Montalvo, currently appearing in the Gloria Estefan bio-musical On Your Feet, performed “Reach” (Dianne Warren and Gloria Estefan) from that show as well as the moving “Patiencia y Fe” from In the Heights. We learned that Montalvo was the first to sing this Lin Manuel Miranda tune in several developmental readings but not in the original Broadway cast, and her legitimate ownership of the tune radiated in the room.
Veterans Chuck Cooper and Penny Fuller each shared a mixture of tunes they had and had not performed on Broadway and took us on thrilling rides. Cooper revisited “Don’t Take Much” (Cy Coleman and Ira Gasman) from The Life, and Fuller channeled her Eve Harrington in “One Halloween” (Charles Strouse and Lee Adams) from Applause. Cooper also charmed with “Your Feet’s Too Big” (Fred Fisher and Ada Benson) that was featured in the revue Ain’t Misbehavin’. Fuller soared with her version of “Send in the Clowns” from A Little Night Music, during which I recalled my own introduction to that tune during the first few weeks of the original Broadway run in 1973 when I was a visiting teenager from the Midwest.
Tunesmith Rupert Holmes performed “Never the Luck” from his own The Mystery of Edwin Drood – let’s say he’s a fine song writer and raconteur. (He told a story about a memorable appearance on the old Merv Griffin television interview show in which he was memorably introduced with “We’d love to talk more with Orson Welles, but let’s meet Rupert Holmes.”) He introduced a woman with a serious voice, Patti Cohenour, who revisited Rosa Bud’s “Moonfall” from Drood, and stopped the show.
The biggest voices and biggest numbers were saved for last. Mandy Gonzalez, currently a replacement in Broadway’s Hamilton, returned to her replacement role as Elphaba in Wicked with a roof rocking “Defying Gravity” (Stephen Schwartz). My heart is still warmed by the three-act play version of “This Nearly Was Mine” (Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II) from South Pacific, delivered by the delicious Paolo Szot who inhabited Emile de Becque so successfully in Lincoln Center’s revival production. And pianist and performer Billy Stritch regaled us with “Lullaby of Broadway” (Harry Warren and Al Dubin) from 42nd Street in which he appeared, and opened the floor for us to join in the final chorus.
“Listen to the lullaby of old Broadway.” Excellence plus nostalgia was the coin of this musical realm.
Jamie deRoy & Friends, Sunday May 7, 2017 at 6:00 pm. Birdland (315 West 44th Street). Benefit for the Actors Fund. BirdlandJazz.com
Top photo credit: Paolo Szot, Billy Stritch, Jamie deRoy, Jim Caruso. Image: Barry Gordin.