“Brian De Lorenzo: Around the World in 80 Minutes
Last Wednesday night at Incanto, Brian De Lorenzo’s “April in Fairbanks” had the audience chuckling along with the lyrics, softly at first, but by the time he was finished the song, the entire theatre was laughing out loud. One man yelled, “It’s not that bad!” Hah! I bet it is.
One of the things I loved about Brian’s new show – Around the World in Eighty Minutes – was hearing songs for the first time and to be able to understand every word perfectly. He made me cry twice – to be able to sing from one heart to touch another when you possess such a powerful voice amazes me.
I hope he will return next season so more people will have a chance to hear his great voice – while clear and strong there is an undercurrent of raspy-ness like his throat had been lightly coated with marble dust. Unique. I have to mention Tim Evans, who accompanied Brian on piano. The rapport between the two was wonderful to watch and to hear. It was Tim’s first trip to Vallarta; I hope it won’t be his last!” - Marcia Blondin
“Music Kevin on Kabaret:
The Top Ten of New York Cabaret 2015
by Kevin Scott Hall, Contributor
Monday Jan 4, 2016
It is always a difficult but thrilling job to come up with my year-end list of favorite cabaret shows in New York. Although I saw over eighty shows this year, it never feels like quite enough, as there is always talent I wasn't able to see. As is my habit, I try not to name folks I've named before, in an effort to spread the wealth.
This year there is a tinge of sadness, as I this will be my final "Kevin on Kabaret" column. After six and a half years writing it, and over twenty years before that involved in all aspects of New York's cabaret world, I feel it is time to move on. Next month, look for my new column, "Kevin Scott Hall's Broadway and Beyond." Rest assured, I will always take a part of the small stage with me wherever I go.
Without further adieu, though, here is my Top Ten list for 2015. Some shows were spillovers from the previous year, which I finally managed to see this year.
Shows are listed alphabetically.
Ruth Carlin. Carlin's tribute to Judy Collins first appeared on stage in 2014. Although Carlin's alto does not resemble Collins' voice, it took a poet like Carlin to bring the songbird's decades of exquisite taste in music to full flower. Carlin captured the beauty of the words and music and, in between, charmed the audience with her unpretentious, humorous patter.
Tim Di Pasqua. This award-winning singer/songwriter embarked on a new project this year, unveiling his entire catalogue plus new songs in monthly shows at Don't Tell Mama. Although Di Pasqua writes terrific songs for the theater, when he sings his own songs that he has written for himself, it's about as close to a channel to the divine as you are likely to encounter.
Brian De Lorenzo. Although I saw a few good tributes to Sinatra this year, nobody brought such fizzy joy to the centennial occasion as De Lorenzo. A consummate musician who makes you feel he's having the time of his life every moment he's on stage, which only adds to your enjoyment.
Jeff Harnar and KT Sullivan. These veteran cabaret artists brought us Act II of their acclaimed collection of Sondheim songs, "Another Hundred People" (as a follow-up to 2014's "Our Time"). Largely eschewing patter, the pair expertly weaved their way through the canon, revealing both emotional depth and transcendent vocal power, when the songs called for it. When great material is done this well, no need for extra bells and whistles.
Karen Jacobsen. This Aussie born, recently crowned American citizen has been impressively building up quite a catalogue of her own. The delightful "Destination Christmas" CD was her ninth recording. In her live shows at Stage 72, she plays piano while she sings a few covers and many of her own compositions, demonstrating a vocal palette than can sound both kittenish and roaring tiger. And she's a terrific storyteller to boot.
Telly Leung. Although an accomplished Broadway actor (now in "Allegiance"), when Leung took to the stage at Joe's Pub to introduce his second album ("Songs for You"), he showed his headlining chops, dazzling like the bright skyscrapers of his parents' Hong Kong or his own New York City. The voice is astonishing and Gary Adler's arrangements on some well-known songs brought new life to them.
Carol Lipnik. With a weekly residency at New York's Pangea every Sunday, singer/songwriter Lipnik has gained an avid following, also boosted by her very fine fourth CD, "Almost Back to Normal." In a world of many imitators, Lipnik is a complete original. Every song is a surprise and every word and gesture adds to the magic.
Karen Mason. In one of the most triumphant returns ever, Mason returned to Don't Tell Mama, where it all began for her thirty-three years before-and for Don't Tell Mama too, as she was the room's first act. Accompanied by the brilliant Christopher Denny, it was just songs and stories with Mason at the mic. Again, when it's brilliant, no need for more.
Adam B. Shapiro. Shapiro's "Nothing Normal" (a play on the film title, The Normal Heart, in which he appeared in a small role) showed off the actor/singer as both a deft comedic talent and one who can pull your heart out with a ballad. Shapiro can also sing show tunes and jazzier tunes with aplomb. Expect more from this talented teddy bear in years to come.
Seth Sikes. Young and energetic Sikes, whose background consisted of some acting, directing, and assistant directing on and off Broadway, took on the daunting task of presenting Garland's songs in many of her same keys and arrangements, in his sellout shows at 54 Below. Like the trouper she was, Sikes jumped on stage and belted out a succession of mostly uptempo songs, displaying all the bravado and bluster of a conquering army. While he saved a couple of quiet moments for later in the show, it was hard not to fall in love with that energy and powerhouse delivery.
Honorable Mention: I wanted to mention a couple of shows that have been around for years, and deserve to be around for several more. Another centennial celebrated this year was Billy Strayhorn's, and Darius de Haas brought all his passion and astonishing vocal work to the Birdland stage. De Haas's return to Strayhorn is always most welcome. And Sue Matsuki and Edd Clark returned with "Sue and Edd's Fabulous Christmas." The material presented was top-notch, and the jazz stylist and legit tenor blended very well together. Also, the chemistry of their friendship is like being around the hearth any time of year. I saw it in July, and it was evergreen even then.
Kevin Scott Hall is the author of Off the Charts! (2010, iUniverse) and the memoir, A Quarter Inch from My Heart (2014, Wisdom Moon).” - Kevin Scott Hall
“Brian De Lorenzo - Come Fly with Me: Sinatra at 100
The Palm Cabaret and Bar
Two nights only: December 4 and 6 at 7PM
Boston and New York cabaret singer, Brian De Lorenzo presented a tribute show to Frank Sinatra who was born one hundred years ago. Unbelievable as that is, tonight we heard a young voice springing from a slight, handsome man. He first appeared at The Palm singing a tune in Paco Ojeda’s “Bette Midler” showcase last year. He opened his salute packed with many memories with “The Best is Yet to Come”, the last song Sinatra sang in public, and was popularly performed by at least six singers in the 1960’s. Swing this room and so he did.
His voice seemed to get better and better, song after song and the viewers gave him long, loud rounds of applause after each rendition. His voice is clean and full-ranged. It was easy to see that Brian felt at home on stage and was professional in his every move. He is an Entertainer with a capital “E”. Fantastic, so very talented Jean-Guy Comeau accompanied throughout on keyboard. He is a master and we will see him here soon backing Alain Perreault. The two were smooth together, with the right notes coming from both artists at the proper time.
Brian’s show is a tribute not an impression. He sang an assortment of songs from the enormous Sinatra songbook which are considered Sinatra classics in addition to productions not often heard or known by many in the audience. That freshened the show, so there was no fear it would be a string of only familiar hits. Composer Johnny Mercer [also founder of Capitol Records] had a great impact on Sinatra and Brian included five of his beautiful compositions.
Fear not, Brian sang some of Frank’s greatest hits including the show’s title song “Come Fly Away”, “Autumn Leaves” and “Fools Rush In”. From his 1955 smash film “Guys and Dolls”, he gave us a terrific “Luck Be a Lady” which he pointed out to much chagrin was sung by Marlon Brando not Sinatra in this wonderful flick.
A huge bonus to the evening was the appearance of Alain Perreault and Renee Armand [whose own show “Rocky Mountain High” is a season standout] singing the delightful “This Little Wicked Town”. All of us went crazy in appreciation of their talents, craving more and more.
Act II of show started anew with a wild crowd-pleaser “Just in Time”. Brian sang terrific song after song increasing the fervor of the people in attendance. He controlled the stage and moved, glided and swayed across the space. The Palm Cabaret is the perfect spot for an act accustomed to smaller intimate venues. He felt very at ease which increased our pleasure and the rapture of his voice.
What song would be more appropriate to end this tribute to one of music’s top crooners, “Ol’ Blue Eyes” than “New York, New York”. Rising to their feet the listeners showed their deep appreciation and demanded more. His run here should have been longer, so that many more music lovers would be able to catch this star performance. For us lucky ones, this night was real and we were extremely grateful.” - Gary R Beck
“Brian De Lorenzo: Sinatra, Tony & Me
New York, NY
May 4, 2014
There are many wonderful young female singers performing in today’s cabaret world. Excellent male voices are few and far between. Brian De Lorenzo is on the small list of today’s great masculine voices. His new show, Sinatra, Tony & Me, is a carefully thought-out program of songs associated with Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. De Lorenzo’s voice is both strong and pleasant. His facial expressions, body language and excellent eye contact had me believing that he truly believes the lyrics that he is singing. His demeanor is easy-going and the patter is amusing and self-deprecating.
He opened by belting “The Best Is Yet to Come,” followed by an exquisitely performed “Stranger in Paradise.” I was pleased by the attention that was paid to the verse in each of his selections. He swung nicely with “Day In, Day Out.” The excitement of “Luck Be a Lady” was emphasized in the Frank Loesser Medley. De Lorenzo, indeed, had rhythm performing “I Got Rhythm.” He closed with “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” which brought me back to the city that I visited last December. The encore was a touching “All the Things You Are” sung to his husband.” - Ron Forman
“All About LoveBrian De Lorenzo Sings
Unforgettable: The Nat King Cole Songbook
Sculler's Jazz Club
Boston, MAMarch 13, 2013
Back in the 1950s, television (like the nation) was defined in black & white – with the faces on air almost exclusively white – until a new variety show debuted in 1956. Now the most elegant man on television was Nat King Cole. With his buttery baritone and sophisticated manner, his appeal crossed age and race. This preteen was smitten immediately and I remain a Cole fan to this day.
Brian De Lorenzo’s smart show at Sculler’s Jazz Club offered an evening of songs made famous by the inimitable Cole. De Lorenzo put his own spin on the material. His voice, he pointed out, is nothing like Cole’s. For one thing, he’s a tenor, but what we soon discover is that the singers have meticulous phrasing and polished musicianship in common.
Some strange chemistry seemed to be at work at Sculler’s. When De Lorenzo sang, say, “Mona Lisa,” you admired his take on the song and at the same time could hear Cole’s version in your memory…and neither detracted from the other, a cerebral duet of sorts.
De Lorenzo managed to fit delightful historical details between the songs, like Cole’s competition with his idol, Earl “Fatha” Hines, when the two pianists joined a “Battle of the Bands” and Cole won, playing Hines’s signature song!
The hip Bill Duffy Quartet meshed seamlessly with De Lorenzo’s relaxed style, and the singer generously gave the musicians opportunities to show their stuff. With his consummate delivery, he (and Duffy’s playful piano) found the humor in Rodgers and Hart’s “This Can’t Be Love,” and then made a novelty song like “I Found a Million Dollar Baby (in a Five and Ten Cent Store)" sound profoundly romantic. His warm, velvety low notes in “When I Fall in Love” morphed into a sweet midsection, then floated off into the skies in the upper range. De Lorenzo knows how to put across a song!The quartet knows their way around jazz. Ed Harlow blew a fine sax solo in Johnny Mercer/Rube Bloom’s “Day In, Day Out.” Percussionist Steve Rose added a brassy rat-a-tat-tat to “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” but the piece de resistance was De Lorenzo’s sorrowful, heartbreaking “Answer Me, My Love,” in which Keala Kaumeheiwa on bass supplied one solo verse, sounding like a cello weeping its lament.
You can’t have a Cole evening without “Unforgettable” – and since the De Lorenzo family has long performed together, Brian and his sister Elaine Spitz made many in the crowd swoon with pleasure. And it was unforgettable.” - Beverly Creasey
“Some Enchanted Evening
Brian De Lorenzo…and Friends
Sculler's Jazz Club
March 29, 2011
There are good shows and there are great shows, but once in a blue moon you’re at a cabaret and you know something extraordinary is going on. We could even see that moon through the picture windows at Scullers Jazz Club this particular night and you’d be hearing Brian De Lorenzo…and Friends, leaving us moonstruck.
De Lorenzo is at the top of his game. He’s a sought-after performer on the musical theater scene, appearing this past year as Bob Cratchit to David Coffee’s Scrooge in the IRNE-nominated A Christmas Carol at North Shore Music Theatre. He appears with New England Light Opera (just last month in their Frank Loesser tribute) and he sang for Irving Berlin’s daughter and granddaughter (and the rest of us) the week before last in the American Classics’ 100th Anniversary of “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.”
When he isn’t singing, he’s looking for vintage sheet music at estate sales and dusty old book stores. He treated us to Lerner’s original lyrics for the verse of “On the Street Where You Live,” discovered in a Chicago book shop. When he delivers a gorgeous Mercer ballad like “When October Goes” (which Barry Manilow set to Mercer’s lyrics after his death), you can almost hear a teardrop in De Lorenzo’s phrasing. Even more remarkable, you can hear the sweetness emerging from the melancholy in his voice. Just when you think romantic ballads are his forte, he has you laughing out loud with John Forster’s naughty travel song, “Entering Marion” (“For the few minutes I was in Marion…all Massachusetts was mine”). He can capture the urgency and longing in a breathtaking Craig Carnelia song like “Flight” (“I’ll start to soar/Watch me rain ’til I pour”). He has the rare ability to transform his tonality to the style of the song: He can find sweet high notes and soft low notes in a song like “My Foolish Heart” and then sound like a smooth, matinee idol in the joyous “I Got Rhythm.”
Speaking of joy, when De Lorenzo’s friends got into the act, he happily played straight man to an irrepressible Randy Zinkus on the hilarious “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and again for a baby doll-voiced Lynda D’Amour on “Suddenly Seymour” from Little Shop of Horrors. Kathy St. George joined De Lorenzo for a playful “How About You?” and then Jack Donahue and De Lorenzo sang impossibly close harmony in “Where Is Love?” from Oliver! Bill Duffy at the piano supplied the eloquent accompaniment, including the delicate, ethereal music box setting for “Some Enchanted Evening.” And it was.” - Beverly Creasey
Although the title of Brian De Lorenzo's Found Treasures refers to the songs it contains, the cabaret singer is one himself. Possessing a clear tenor which he uses with earnest emotional intensity, De Lorenzo sings with complete commitment. Some of his selections may not have been "lost" to Show Music readers, but the 19 numbers form an appealing program. And where else would you be likely to hear Angel's "Astoria Gloria" and "How Do You Say Goodbye?," Romance/Romance's "Words He Doesn't Say," and 3 Guys Naked From the Waist Down's "I Don't Believe in Heroes Anymore?" De Lorenzo's sincerity makes familiar songs such as "Who Will Buy?" (Oliver!), "Do I Hear a Waltz?" and "Tonight at Eight" (She Loves Me) seem fresh.” - Max O. Preeo
— Show Music
“Made in America: Vaudeville Songs
I want to mention two discs that have recently come across my desk. The first is Made in America: Vaudeville Songs – it's a tribute to the Gumm Family – and you know their most famous daughter – Frances Gumm – better known as Judy Garland. Here, you'll find some 22 tracks of songs like "By the Light of the Silvery Moon" and "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen." All of the songs on this charming disc are ones that were performed by the Gumm family's act when they traveled on the vaudeville circuit. The booklet that comes with the disc is chock-full of information and it's not only a grand listen, it's a terrific recreation of a piece of history.
Another look back to the past is "William Bolcom, Joan Morris, Max Morath and Robert White Sing Gus Kahn" – it's a live recording that features some of the most beautifully phrased renditions I can think of of songs like "Dream a Little Dream of Me," "Makin' Whoopee," "My Buddy" and "Toot Toot Tootsie.” - Andy Propst
“UNDER THE RADAR
Made in America: Vaudeville Songs
A Tribute to the Gumm Family, New York Cast
As usual, the last CD is one you might not know. Those who think they do, should know that this is a revised version, with eight selections re-recorded or new. (I haven't heard the earlier tracks, so I can't comment on the now-obsolete incarnation.) This newly issued version is an entertaining look back at entertainment from decades ago. Going back to those pre-microphone days, it's billed as a "tribute" to the members of the Gumm family. Using material sung once upon a vaudeville time by Baby Frances Gumm (the tiny tot who grew up to have her name changed to Judy Garland) and her performing family, it's a page out of history. Judy Garland's very early performing career has been discussed in books and is the stuff that becomes legendary and/or hypochrophal. The producer of this recording and its live show counterpart is Michelle Russell, who is writing a full-length book about the family, due next year.
There are a few existing bits of sound and film and some photos of the real Gumms, but they are not imprinted enough in most people's minds to worry about comparisons. In this recording, there are several numbers with three young girls as Judy and her two older sisters. Sofie Zamchik, age 8, gets the big shoes to fill (or should I say little shoes?) and is a sweetie. As Judy, she sounds unaffected and endearing in her solo spots - the tearjerkers "Tie Me to Your Apron Strings Again" and a spunky "Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue. The older girls, Ashley Birmingham and Laura Oseland, set the mood well with the opener, "Rememb'ring." All three shine in a dare-you-not-to-smile paean to optimism, "Wear a Hat With a Silver Lining." This is a late addition to the show, the theme song of vaudevillian Ted Lewis. You might expect that, with the hook being Judy Garland, the kids would dominate the album, but they don't. I'd prefer more of the sisters' repertoire, but the focus is more on the material that was performed by Frank and Ethel Gumm, who began as performers years before their daughters were part of the act.
Erin Romero and Jennifer Ackerman are both heard effectively as mother Gumm. Jennifer does a lovely job with a solo, "I've Been Saving For a Rainy Day." However, it's the sole male member of the troupe who gets the lion's share of the material. That's fine by me, as he's the versatile and strong singer Brian De Lorenzo. The guy has a real flair for the period style. Whether turning on the charm with a showy bit of flash or a sentimental ballad with his pure, high voice, he's perfect casting. I knew his talent and affection for more recent theatrical material from a well-done solo album, Found Treasures, so I'm not surprised.
Garland aficionados will note that there are numerous songs from the family set list that she recorded after she became a star, having retained an affection for the old standbys. Those include "You Made Me Love You," "Alexander's Ragtime Band," "Carolina in the Morning," "Danny Boy," and the song used, in a short version, as the closing theme for her TV series, "Maybe I'll Come Back" (it's one of Brian's best moments and he sings it with relish).
When My Sugar Walks Down the Street," sung here by the girls, was one of the songs cut from a segment in the Garland film A Star Is Born.
Major credit must go to the pianists. Sue Maskaleris is responsible for skilled piano accompaniment and vocal/instrumental arrangements on seven tracks. The rest are the work of Mark Hartman, credited in the same way and also as a co-producer (along with Daryl Kojak). An increasingly ubiquitous and always valued presence on the New York cabaret and theater scene, Mark has a special affinity for period material, as evidenced by his past work with the highly entertaining and musically spot-on revivals produced by Musicals Tonight! and the new recording of After The Ball on the Kritzerland label. He has an understanding of and respect for the 1920s and 1930s eras and it comes through his playing, as he brings out an affection stopping short of schmaltz and never sounding tired.
A few selections have the added musical colors of clarinet, violin or ukelele. Certainly, you need to be willing to step back in time and buy into the sentimentality and check your sophistication at the door. If children singing sets your teeth on edge, these Gumms aren't going to do yours any good.
The great achievement of this album is that it comes off as a sincere love letter to the style and sensibility of the period. Though knee-deep in nostalgia (maybe waist-deep, actually), the performers don't sound condescending to the more flowery, innocent tone. No one is winking at the audience or mocking in any way, and the performers and musicians work together well. Since they complement each other well and are on the same page, this reflects well on Michelle Russell as director and executive producer. The liner notes are informative but concise, explaining how and when each song was part of the Gumm family performing history. Though Judy Garland fans will be especially curious, this has much broader appeal. Anyone interested in the early era of American entertainment will get a real taste for the styles from this good mix of the little-known and better-remembered tunes. I think Broadway types will especially like "There's a Broken Heart for Each Light on Broadway." As Ethel Merman first sang (loud and clear), "who could ask for anything more?” - Rob Lester
“Made in America: Vaudeville Songs - A Tribute to the Gumm Family This album is a tribute to the performers who traveled around the country from the late 1800s to the 1930s, and Made in America is a "family" troupe of five performers, two adults and three young girls. This CD is a lot of nostalgic and melodic fun featuring lilting, swaying tunes and soulful ballads, all chockfull of character and insights into the American heart and mind of yesteryear -- a time of gentler expression but no less emotional depth. Today, at a time when many of us are developing a deeper sense of nation and community and rediscovering an appreciation of our own unique values and culture (yes, Americans DO have a "culture" despite the persistent and cynical perception to the contrary), this CD is a terrific way to enjoy bygone music, timeless feelings and the joys of family and children. I was surprised that I was at least generally familiar with most of the 22 songs in this collection. (Oh, the terrors of being middle-aged!) Some songs here are rare or unknown -- a special appeal in itself -- but there are classics aplenty, including "By the Light of the Silvery Moon," "Alexander's Ragtime Band," "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen" and "Carolina in the Morning." There is a beautiful rendition of "Danny Boy" and even a short ukulele solo performance. But there's another equally historic-cultural reason to enjoy this collection. All the songs here have a connection with the Gumm family, which was a performing family through and through. Frank and Ethel Gumm formed a vaudeville team known as: Jack and Virginia Lee, Sweet Southern Singers. They settled in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and managed a local movie theater. The couple dreamed of having a child who would be a renowned singer. And guess what? Along came a third daughter, whom they named Frances. The world would know her later as Judy Garland. The future star made her stage debut at age 2, singing "Jingle Bells" and in trio with her sisters, singing "When My Sugar Walks Down the Street." (That's a really fun song, by the way.) Thus, the three children in the modern-day act represent the Gumm daughters, and they play a prominent role, solo and collectively, in many of the songs -- from the endearing "I Never Had a Mammy" to the innocently stirring "My Country Tis of Thee" to the joyful, can't-sit-still "Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue. If you recognize "There's a Broken Heart for Each Light on Broadway," there's a very good reason. Judy Garland loved this song and used it to close her weekly television show. (No, I didn't know that one. That was just a tad before my time.) There's more information on the Web site about the family and Judy Garland. Also on the CD: "My Wonderful Dream Girl" is a dreamlike, haunting ballad that will capture your attention and your heart. The title song, "Made In America" is really the song, "There's a Maid in America - A Maid for Every Boy," which you might even call a possible vaudevillian influence for the Beach Boys. (Did I say culture? You betcha.) Made in America is a group comprised of sterling talent -- accomplished performers and up-and-comers (in some cases, both). There are lots of names and lots of credits, and it's difficult to know where to start and where to stop. So, I'm going to leave it up to you to check out the performers at your pleasure. Even if these old songs and the vaudeville-cabaret style aren't your cup of tea, you're bound to find yourself getting caught up in it all anyway.” - Russ Schach