Sam Harris: Openly Gray! at Feinstein’s/ 54 Below
Sam Harris may be openly gray and just turned 60 but he still has the voice and energy he had when he first appeared on Star Search at the age of 22. Mr Harris has had a varied career since his record breaking 14 episode appearance on the OG talent show: actor on TV, author and Tony nominated star of Cy Coleman’s The Life in 1997. His new one man cabaret show at 54 Below is another triumph for him and his long term Musical director, Todd Schroeder.
I have to start with the fact that not only is Mr Harris a wonderful singer with a varied catalogue of music, he is also very funny. His musical selections and wit about what we have all been going through in this pandemic period is what we need to get us started for recovery.
Appropriately, as we see the end of these past two trying years, he begins his show with Happy Days Are Here Again which is a harbinger of the smiles he puts on his audience’s faces. Commiserating with his audience he relates to them how difficult it has been to have too much family time over the past two years ending with him singing Crazy and then continuing with that theme with Sondheim’s You Could Drive a Person Crazy (a rendition that starts slow and then ends with a fun fast mix.)
Janis Ian’s song Jesse slows the tempo to demonstrate Mr Harris’ ability to bring heart to his music. A Million Reasons continues to allow him shine a light on his vocal range.
Sam is truly personable and funny and his next song which I like to not mention the title allows him to complement his witty monologues into some equally funny lyrics. The audience reacted with joy at this song.
Sam is openly gray but also open with his personal difficulties. During the past two years, he suffered through some vocal problems resulting in vocal cord hemorrhaging and surgery; but, as he tells us he got through this with the help of his family, doctor and vocal coach. At this point he takes to the piano to play a slow heart felt version of The Beatles Help!
What is truly unique about Mr Harris, which one must attribute to both his singing and acting skills is that he can easily transition from a joke to a personal story to a quick imitation of Tina Turner’s dance steps while singing Proud Mary and then back to a wonderfully sentimental story about a childhood friend before singing a pairing of Charlie and Steal Away.
As I mentioned earlier, he was Tony nominated for his performance in The Life and he reprised one of those songs Use What You Got still donning that hat he wore in the show. It is a terrific coincidence that he is in town this week in time to see the Encores presentation of that same show this coming weekend.
To round out the show he sings Don’t Rain on My Parade and with some funny meanderings Everyone’s Gone to the Moon.
Sam, at 60, jokes that at his age he is not going to walk off and back onto the stage for his final song. Of course after singing a song about the moon, he has to end the evening with the song that brought him his first of over a dozen Star Search wins, Over the Rainbow.
It is important that I mention Sam’s musical director Todd Schroeder who adds to the enjoyment of the show both with his arrangements, piano playing and connection with Mr Harris. Also the lighting was perfectly on cue with the songs.
If you can, go see him at Feinstein’s/ 54 Below or stream the show on Wednesday March 17th.
Look for the streaming review tomorrow.
My View: Palm Beach This Week…Paul Anka, Rita Rudner, Linda Purl & BIlly Stritch!
If there was any doubt that Cafe Centro was a bona fide Cabaret Venue it was dispelled last night. Billy Stritch was seated at the Cafe’s Grand Piano and Linda Purl was the songstress headlining on the cabaret stage of the South Florida restaurant. The SRO crowd that had managed to snag dinner/show tickets got to hear one of the most skillful performances of the Great American Songbook and Broadway show tunes currently out there in Cabaret world. Linda Purl, an extraordinary actor is also an extremely talented vocalist who makes you fall in love with the song and also with Linda Purl, and I might add she is oh so great to focus on through my camera lens.
Billy Stritch was the music director for this gig and he brought his creative, virtuosic, jazz infused piano playing to accompany her. Billy was an engine of harmony and rhythm that coupled with Linda’s natural swing and romantic ballads perfectly. The overflow crowd loved every note of the performance. Mr. Stritch usually adds his lush voice underneath his stable of super singers to create some fantastic musical symmetry, as he has done for some of show biz’s legendary entertainers (Liza Minnelli, Christine Ebersole, Linda Lavin, Linda Eder, and Marilyn Maye to name a few.) During this show he wowed us all with his keyboard artistry. BTW, BIlly, an extraordinary singer/ entertainer on the cabaret and concert stages worldwide can be seen at the new WICK Museum nightclub on April 1st for a special one night only engagement performing his Cy Coleman show. Not to be missed by music lovers.
Sanford Fisher produced the Linda Purl evening. It brought these two super stars of the Cabaret and Concert stages together for an outstanding evening at Cafe Centro, our local oasis of live music in Palm Beach.
Another great Palm Beach event this week…..the “LADY IN RED” LIFE Gala at The Breakers……Congratulations to Lois Pope, the Board of LIFE and Entertainment Chair Sunny Sessa for creating a fantastic evening……
RITA RUDNER & PAUL ANKA……What a show!
The Marvelous Marilyn Maye Received Twelve Standing Ovations At The New York Pops
Karen Akers, Jim Caruso, Tony Danza, Jamie deRoy, Max von Essen, Melissa Errico, Bob Mackie, Susie Mosher, Sidney Myer, Josh Prince, Lee Roy Reams, Rex Reed, Randy Roberts, Mo Rocca , Mark Sendroff, Lee Roy Reams, Brenda Vaccaro and David Zippel were there to see and honor Cabaret legend and Grammy nominee Marilyn Maye. Maye who turns 95 April 10th, made her at Carnegie Hall solo debut last night with The New York Pops, led by Music Director and Conductor Steven Reineke.
Maye is a highly praised singer, actress, director, arranger, educator, Grammy nominated recording artist and a musical treasure. Her entire life has been committed to the art of song and performance and it showed with the 12 standing ovations she received.
Maye appeared 76 times on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, she was “discovered” by Steve Allen and had a RCA recording contract, seven albums and 34 singles.
The evening started out with the superlative New York Pops Overture of Mame, which Maye had played the title role.
Next a Cole Porter Medley with “Looking at You,” Concentrate On You,” “I Get A Kick Out Of You,” It’s Alright With Me,””Just One of Those Things,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” and “All of You”. This was Marilyn’s second standing ovation. The first was when she stood on that stage for the first time and the audience was rapturous.
A terrific “It’s Today” from Mame with high flying kicks was the third ovation and wow can that woman kick.
A rainbow medley included “Look To The Rainbow” from Finnian’s Rainbow, the iconic “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” the jazzy “Make Me Rainbows” and of course “The Rainbow Connection.” And with that another standing ovation.
“Put On A Happy Face” from Bye Bye Birdie.
Frank Loesser’s Joey, Joey, Joey brought on a fifth standing ovation. This song was a masterclass in acting and vocal nuance. For that matter every song that comes out of Ms. Maye’s mouth is perfection. Part of the brilliance of this night is her musical director, arranger, and pianist Ted Firth. That man is a genius.
Lerner and Loewe’s “On The Street Where You Live” from My Fair Lady ended the first act with a sixth standing ovation.
The overture from Hello Dolly! and then Cabaret shows Marilyn Maye also starred in opened the second act. The New York Pops sounded phenomenal as always.
“Your Gonna Hear From Me” from “Inside Daisy Clover was an appropriate starter for this next round as the audience got to its feet.
Maye’s most requested song “Guess Who I Saw Today” from New Faces of 1952 was followed by a show stopping “Fifty Percent” from Ballroom and of course another standing ovation.
Her next song was chosen by the Smithsonian Institute to be included in its permanent collection of recordings from the 20th century. Her recording of “Too Late Now” is considered by the Smithsonian to be one of the 110 Best American Compositions of the Twentieth Century and Ms. Maye showed us why and again another standing ovation.
A proclamation from The City of New York read by Steven Reineke to Marilyn Maye made this day Marilyn Maye Day. This treasure cried with joy as she sang Stephen Sondheim’s “I’m Still Here.” Though she forgot some of the lyric, Ms. Maye proved performing is all on the intent and connecting to the audience. Two more standing ovations were added here.
For encores, I was thrilled to hear James Taylor’s “Circle of Life” and “Here’s To Life,” which is my personal favorite, finally going back into “It’s Today” with those high kicks and a twelfth standing ovation. Bravo Ms. Maye!
If you are a singer and do not catch Ms. Maye live, you really do not care about your craft. Last night Ms. Maye made it clear why she’s been celebrated as one of America’s greatest jazz singers for more than 50 years and this was a night I will always remember. Thank-you New York Pops.
Don’t miss the Pop’s 40th Birthday Gala: This One’s For You: The Music Of Barry Manilow on Monday, May 1st. The gala will star Sean Bell, Erich Bergen, Betty Buckley, Charo, Deborah Cox, Danny Kornfeld, Norm Lewis, Melissa Manchester, Zal Owen, Eric Peters, Blake Roman, Billy Stritch, Steven Telsey, Max von Essen, Dionne Warwick, and more to be announced. This will be yet another New York Pop’s Night not to miss.
My View: It’s Today! It’s Tonight! Marilyn Maye Rehearses For Her New York Pops Carnegie Hall Debut
Sometimes you have to pinch yourself at the opportunities you are presented with. TODAY would be one of those. Or as Marilyn Maye might sing to you, “It’s Today.”
This afternoon I had the privilege of witnessing the 95 year old star, rehearsing on the stage of Carnegie Hall, under the baton of Maestro Steven Reineke, in front of the mighty New York Pops Orchestra. It all happens tonight and has been a lifetime in the making. As if The New York Times piece, bylined by Melissa Errico, wasn’t enough to whet your appetite for what is sure to be a historic evening, maybe these photos will help get you even more excited. Thank you to all who made this happen for me, to present to you….Humbly Yours, Stephen
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