It might have been a drizzling Friday evening in the Northern Chicago suburbs, however the talent center stage was nothing short of white hot. Grammy Award winning legends, 88 year old Tony Bennett and 29 year old Lady Gaga, the musical May/December pairing of the moment, whose sweet serenades closed their generation gap in fantastic melodic merriment, enjoyed by a sold out crowd. As a matter of fact, this was the fastest selling show in the venue’s 111 year history. Impressive for a duo who, on paper, seem quite contradictory. He of the classic tailor suits, vintage velvet voice and statesmanlike silver hair and she, the wild siren, Mother Monster of the modern digital age, whose outlandish costuming often overshadows her remarkable musical capabilities. While the songs may have struck a keenly nostalgic chord with their combined audiences, the Jazz Age for a new millennium sounded fantastic. What a celebration of classic American songwriters including George Gershwin, Louis Armstrong, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, Cab Calloway and Frank Sinatra. How could they possibly go wrong with this impressive songbook?
Backed by a 14 piece orchestra and attired in an iridescent lavender beaded, floor-length gown, Gaga began the evening twirling her exaggerated sleeves next to the dapper, suit wearing icon. Kicking off the night with a rousing rendition of Anything Goes and Cheek to Cheek, both artists appeared to be having the time of their lives. Slow dancing in one another’s arms during They All Laughed earned the duo the first of several standing ovations. While the orchestrations and big band backup were clearly Bennett’s milieu, Gaga met her mentor note for note. While she darted off for the first of what would be seven attention-grabbing costume changes, Bennett wowed the crowd with two solo standards, Stranger in Paradise and Sing You Sinners. Returning to the stage in a black and white, floor length beaded gown Gaga looking ever the lady, and with Bennett by her side, they next entertained with Nature Boy, Watch What Happens, and The Good Life.
Sharing with the audience she has sung jazz “since I was a little girl” Lady Gaga’s third costume change was to a men’s navy two piece suit with conspicuous red platform stiletto boots. Strutting around the stage, one hand in her pocket, Gaga belted out a vengeful Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) then relaxed her signature edge for the sumptuous Rodgers and Hart’s classic Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered. Not to be out down, Tony took the stage next for a series of solo classics including Firefly, the Charlie Chaplin classic Smile, When You’re Smiling, Steppin’ Out With My Baby and For Once In My Life. Keeping up with this roaring twenties atmosphere, Gaga reappeared in a knee length, black flapper dress with a feathered head piece as they crooned I Won’t Dance. Tony finished the set with a fetching rendition of The Lady’s in Love With You.
It is not a Lady Gaga show until a few jaws drop, and drop they did as she brazenly appeared in a floor length red mesh & sequin gown, red pasties strategically covering her breasts and finished the look off with a dramatic red feathered cape. “What in the hell does she have on” said the 83 year old man standing directly behind me. Trust me, I was the lone “Little Monster” in the sea of Bennett fans surrounding me. Before beginning her next number, Gaga made reference to the historic announcement earlier in the day from the Supreme Court, who voted to legally recognize Same-Sex marriages in all 50 states. The Born This Way vocalist announced “I know it may be a touchy subject, but let’s touch it. Because what a victory! What a special day for love. So this is for you, for fighting. And also for Tony Bennett, who fought for the civil rights of so many.” After inspiring the crowd, Gaga rewarded the energized audience with I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby and Lush Life. Bennett returned with I’ve Got The World On A String and In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning.
Channeling the old Hollywood regalia of Marilyn Monroe in Gentleman Prefer Blondes, Gaga next emerged wearing a cotton candy pink cocktail dress with an exaggerated bow at her waist to perform Edith Piaf’s La Vie En Rose, in French no less, with such operatic grandeur, it brought to mind her triumphant ode to The Sound Of Music a few months earlier at the Academy Awards. Say what you will about her multiple tattoos and outlandish costuming, this woman can truly sing and earned herself another standing ovation from a crowd, clearly impressed with what they just experienced. Bennett subsequently returned to warble through How Do You Keep The Music Playing?
To duet on the classic Let’s Face The Music And Dance, Gaga channeled Jean Harlow in a body hugging, low-cut black gown with a long belt she twirled with vigor throughout the number. Before she went to change again, she treated the audience to Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye. Bennett next shared with the onlookers his appreciation for her talent, regaled the audience with stories of his misadventures with the Chairman of the Board, Frank Sinatra, including the fact they were “best friends” and wrapped this vignette with the benchmarks Who Cares?, Fly Me To The Moon, Chicago, and his definitive rendition of I Left My Heart In San Francisco.
Saving the eye-popping best for last, Lady Gaga’s final costume change of the evening was into a sheer, sleek, custom tailored Roberto Cavalli gown with plumage appliques and a coordinating white feather stole. The twosome quipped back and fourth in a charming version of Rodger and Hart’s The Lady Is A Tramp and finished their nearly two hour set with It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing). Two very different performers with authentic chemistry and great appreciation for one another’s remarkable talent, inspiring the best in and from of one another. Serving up a set of Jazz Age romance with a long stream of vanished era standards, Bennett and Gaga were a class act of two, raising the bar with longevity, flair and mutual respect. The adoring audience was all the better for it.
Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett played the Ravinia Friday June 26, 2015
The Glorious Corner
WOODSTOCK COVER STARS — (Via Best Classic Bands) — Bobbi Ercoline’s name may not be familiar to most, but millions own her photograph: Bobbi, whose last name at the time was Kelly, and her then-boyfriend, Nick Ercoline, were huddled together under a quilt at the 1969 Woodstock festival when photographer Burk Uzzle snapped their picture. The couple, both then 20, were unaware that their photo had even been taken until several months later, when the three-LP Woodstock soundtrack album was released. They were among friends when they first realized the couple on the album cover was them.
“We were passing the jacket around when someone pointed out the staff with the orange and yellow butterfly,” Nick told AARP in 2019 for the organization’s magazine. “That belonged to Herbie, a guy from Huntington Beach, Calif. He was lost and having a bad trip, and we hooked arms with him until he was clear-headed. Then we saw the blanket. Oh my lord, that’s us!”
Bobbi and Nick only lasted one night at Woodstock, and never even got near the stage. They had given it their all trying to get to the festival, ditching their car when traffic became snarled and walking the final two miles. They spent most of their single day there on the hillside where the famous photo was taken.
Two years later, in 1971, they married. They remained together until Bobbi Ercoline’s death Saturday (March 18, 2023).
Nick posted the news on Facebook: “It’s with beyond great sadness that I tell my FB family and friends, that after 54 years of life together, of the death of my beautiful wife, Bobbi, last night surrounded by her family. She lived her life well, and left this world in a much better place. If you knew her, you loved her. She lived by her saying, ‘Be kind.’ As a School Nurse she always championed the kids … ALWAYS! As a person, she always gave. ‘How much do you really need if you have all you need or want?’ So she gave and gave and gave. She didn’t deserve this past year’s nightmare, but she isn’t suffering from the physical pain anymore and that brings some comfort to us.”
We’ve spoken much over the years about how that Woodstock event was so cataclysmic – culturally; musically; and certainly philosophically. Elliot Tiber wrote beautifully about it in his first book Taking Woodstock – a classic if you’ve never read it.
They tried to re-create it in 1994 and though it was good, it just didn’t have that magical flavor of the first one. I wasn’t at either, but as you can imagine, music from that 1969 concert still lives passionately today. I was, however, at Live Aid and that was my Woodstock for sure.
Not to get too poetic, but I came across a great quote yesterday: It’s worth being older now, to have been young then.
SHORT TAKES — Derek & The Dominoes Bobby Whitlock on Jim Gordon: “Carl Radle and Jim Gordon … Didn’t get any better than that. The only other alternative [for Derek and the Dominoes] was Jim Keltner. And that’s who should have been the guy and who was supposed to be the guy. But it didn’t turn out that way. He was busy. The rhythm section of Carl and Jim propelled the songs we put together. Jim Gordon is the most musical drummer I ever heard. All of the drums were in tune. literally tuned to a key on the piano. Big kit. But Jim had this wonderful ability to interpret the nuances you could feel but not hear. Carl was solid as a rock. A downbeat player and right on it. So, we have Carl who is solid and down and Jim who is up and on it. So, it was perpetual motion” …
Do you remember “Vehicle” by The Idea of March back in 1970? It became the fastest-selling single in Warner Brothers history. A little-known fact is that 14 seconds of the completed master of “Vehicle” was accidentally erased in the recording studio, (primarily the guitar solo), and the missing section was spliced in from a previously discarded take. The song reached #2 in Billboard, and #1 in Cashbox. The album “Vehicle” reached #55 nationally … Dolly Parton sings with Elton John on “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” on her forthcoming rock ‘n roll album. I bet it’ll sound great, but how many covers of that song has there been? Maybe they should have picked a John/Taupin deep-cut like “Come Down In Time” or “Amoreena.” Just saying … Does the phrase DLYZECOMKIN mean anything to you?
Believe it or not, in one of those crazy-jumble games online, the phrase translates into Micky Dolenz. Crazy, right? See for yourself: https://invasion24.com/2023/03/19/daily-jumble-puzzle-answers-march-19-2023/
… Speaking of Dolenz, he departs Thursday on a Flower Power Cruise; then starts his Headquarters-tour on April 1 in Orlando …
Charles F. Rosenay does the Zach Martin Big Fat American Podcast next week, for his new release, The Book of Top 10 Beatles Lists (KIWI Publishing) … HAPPY BDAY Gia Ramsey!
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Carol Geiser; Bob Meyerowitz; eYada; Andy Rosen; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Paul Haig; Terry Jastrow; Anthony Pomes; Mark Bego; Charles F. Rosenay; Bill Graham; Kip Cohen; Heather Moore; Charley Crespo; [Robert Miller; John Luongo; LIME; Carl Strube; Jen Ramos; and CHIP!
Rockefeller Center presents Ice Theatre of New York, Inc
Ice Theatre of New York (ITNY) is proud to hit the ice at The Rink at Rockefeller Center on March 23, 2023 at 12:30pm with ITNY Ensemble members Liz Yoshiko Schmidt and Danil Berdnikov performing Lorna Brown’s Timelessness. For more information, visit icetheatre.org/calendar.html.
Jason Robert Brown, Chuck Cooper, Janet Dacal, Sutton Foster, Lillias White and More To Perform at TheaterWorksUSA Spring Gala
TheaterWorksUSA, currently presenting the hit family show Dog Man The Musical at New World Stages, will host its annual Spring Gala on Monday, April 24 (cocktails begin at 6 PM) at The Current at Chelsea Piers.
100% of the net proceeds from the event will support our mission to create exceptional, transformative theatrical experiences that are accessible to young and family audiences in diverse communities across New York City and North America.
This year TWUSA will honor Lisa Chanel (TWUSA Board Chair 2019-2022), Andréa Burns (Award-winning Broadway actress & educator), Peter Flynn (TWUSA alumnus and award-winning director, writer, and educator), and Holly McGhee (Founder and Creator of Pippin Properties, New York Times best selling author). The event will feature appearances by some of Broadway’s biggest stars, including Jason Robert Brown, Chuck Cooper, Janet Dacal, Kevin Del Aguila, Sutton Foster, Lillias White and more.
On behalf of TheaterWorksUSA’s Board of Directors, we are thrilled to celebrate the people who have generously supported our mission, making it possible for us to bring high-quality theater to young audiences of all backgrounds throughout the country. We look forward to recognizing Lisa, Andréa, Peter, and Holly publicly at this very special event. – Tracy A. Stein, Board Chair
It’s a privilege to honor these individuals for playing such an important role in the work we do. Their vision, creativity, and ongoing commitment to our mission is truly something to celebrate. They are very much a part of our TheaterworksUSA family.- Barbara Pasternack, Artistic Director
TheaterWorksUSA (Barbara Pasternack, Artistic Director; Michael Harrington, Executive Director) has led the Theater for Young and Family Audiences movement in New York City and across North America for over half a century. At TWUSA, we believe that access to art—and theater, in particular—is vital for our youth. Since 1961, the 501(c)3 not-for-profit has captured the imaginations of 100 million new and veteran theatergoers with an award-winning repertoire of over 140 original plays and musicals. Acclaimed alumni include Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (Disney’s Frozen), Daphne Rubin-Vega (Rent), Jerry Zaks (The Music Man), Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Dear Evan Hansen), Miguel Cervantes (Hamilton), Kathleen Chalfant (Angels in America), and Chuck Cooper (Tony award-winning actor, The Life). WWW.TWUSA.ORG
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