A Concert to Benefit The Actors Fund
Reviewed by Joe Regan Jr.
December 9, 2012
A great start for the Holiday season was the December 9 benefit for The Actors Fund at Feinstein’s at the Loews Regency entitled My Gift of Thanks: New Songs for the Holidays which featured an all star cast, an all female orchestra, and the lyrics of Emmy Award winning songwriter Bill Schermerhorn. As VP/Creative Director of Macy’s he is the producer of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the awe-inspiring Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks. Schermerhorn recently joined the board of the New York Pops and, among other credits, has served as Artistic Director/Script Writer for the League of American Theatre and Producers’ Broadway on Broadway and Stars in the Alley events.
The superb orchestra, filling the Feinstein’s stage was Five Play, a quintet led by Sherrie Maricle, the drummer and included, all with great featured solos, Brenda Earle on piano, Noriko Ueda on bass, Janelle Reichman on tenor sax and clarinet, and Jami Dauber on trumpet. The back up singers, all talented cabaret and recording artists, were La Tanya Hall, Catherine Russell, and Carolyn Leonhart, opening the show with the great uplifting song “What Good Is Being Cranky (When It’s Christmas Time),” with music by Mary Ehlinger. After the cheerful number, youthful looking Schermerhorn welcomed the capacity well dressed and bejeweled audience and thanked them for attending the benefit for The Actors Fund. He discussed the many benefits Actors Fund does, including helping all theatre workers, not only actors, but also technicians, with group insurance and, at the present time, assistance for the victims of Tropical Storm Sandy.
The singers, all wonderful, were Adrienne Warren (Bring It On,) Ann Hampton Calloway, Hunter Ryan Herdlicka (from A Little Night Music,) Alix Korey, Julia Murney, Norm Lewis (Porgy and Bess,) Randy Redd (Million Dollar Quartet, Parade) who also doubled on piano for Murney and Lewis.)
Among the highlights of the thrilling celebration were Adrienne Warren singing a Michael Feinstein composed New York City homage “Give Me The Key,“ Hampton Calloway exuberantly singing the Emmy Award winning “Yes Virginia (There’s A Santa Claus)” which she originally sang on a Thanksgiving Day parade float, and a tribute to Boston’s famous oyster restaurant, “On Union Street,” both of these with music by Wesley Whatley; Ryan Herdlicka gloriously singing “I Want To Play Santa” also with music by Whatley; Korey, with long blond hair these days, wryly singing “Santa Doesn’t Like Me,” (Matthew Sklar, composer), “Old Cold Yesterdays” (Stephen Fox composer), and a song composed only two weeks ago by 94 year old Milton Delugg entitled “Light Up The World;” Murney, a confessed Irish-Catholic non-mother singing “Rushing Home At Sunset,” the tale of a Jewish mother rushing home in time for Chanukah (music by Feinstein) and the sweet “I Saw A Sparrow in the Snow” (Sklar) Norm Lewis’ big Broadway voice singing the moving “Discovery” (Whatley), “My Gift of Thanks,” (Feinstein) and an enchanting duet with Ryan Herdlicka on “(Just) Beyond the Dream” (Brian Besterman, composer) and Redd doing the boogie woogie rock and roll “So Santa” (Feinstein) on which Five Play blasted away behind him!
For the closing number, Carolyn Leonhart, who has a fantastic vocal musical instrument, stepped forward and performed “I Believe” a great inspirational number and another Emmy nominated song originally introduced by Kermit the Frog.
The audience, without prompting, stood up for the entire company applauding. The entire program demonstrated what a versatile and great lyricist Schermerhorn is and what a lucky choice he has in his collaborators and I’m sorry that there wasn’t more than one performance of The Gift of Thanks.