Musical Salute to Sir Noel’s 115th Birthday

 

The Mabel Mercer Foundation presents Musical Salutes to Sir Noel on his 115th Birthday

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by: Joe Regan Jr.

 

 

Continuing a celebration that began Sunday with a ceremony at the Gershwin Theatre Hall of Fame and continued at a luncheon with entertainment (including Joan Copeland’s reminiscences of “Conversation Piece” and singing “I’ll Follow My Secret Heart” with effortless musical and lyrical ease,) on Sir Noel’s actual birthday, December 16, the Mabel Mercer Foundation presented “Musical Salutes to Sir Noel on his 115th Birthday.” The sold out house at the Laurie Beechman Theater was packed with cabaret royalty including several members of the Noel Coward Society.

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Bill Zeffiro began with a witty version of “Alice Is At It Again” before KT Sullivan appeared on stage in a white dress and a stunning red hat and killed us with “Why Do The Wrong People Travel.” 2014 MetroStar winner Kristoffer Lowe, accompanied by Rick Jensen, sang three songs he felt were as contemporary today as they were when they were written many years ago: “World Weary,” “20th Century Blues,” and the sad “The Dream Is Over” about the breakup of a love affair. Lowe’s voice soared over the music and the lyrics for great emotional impact.

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Young Eva Kantor followed with “A Room with a View,” and the funny “What’s Going To Happen To the Tots?”        T. Oliver Reid, recently on Broadway, wryly sang the novelty “Any Little Fish,” and then went tender with “No, Never Again.” Maxine Linehan, from Dublin, did the sophisticated lady and prostitute version of “Mad About the Boy,” with exceptional vocal skills and dramatic talent. Her second was one that had philosophical meaning for her, “Sail Away,” tenderly singing about fighting depression.

KT took center stage and with Zeffiro did a wow version of “Chase Me Charlie” and they dueted funnily on “Brownsville Darby and Joan.”

The penultimate act was the return of Eric Michael Gillett with Jensen who told of his appearance years ago at the old MGM Grand singing at the top of a big birthday cake “Zigeuner.” The dress rehearsal story (before the owners of the MGM Grand) was a hoot because it was all about Siegfried the magician. It was about the timing of the act but the magicians never do their tricks in rehearsal so his dress rehearsal performance was short of 22 minutes. Called on the carpet by producer Donn Arden, Siegried said “but you’re not counting the applause.“ With applause the act ran 28 minutes allowing the cake many minutes to set up. Then Gillett did the raunchy “Poor Uncle Harry” about a lapsed missionary. On “Why Must the Show Go On,” when he lost a lyric, he stopped and told of an aging singer who after singing the beginning of the familiar song couldn’t remember the title words to “Where or When.” Prompted by Jensen, Gillett finished “Why Must the Show Go On” with great flourish! He told how Coward, in a bomb shelter during the Blitz, wrote “London Pride” and tenderly sang that wonderful Coward standard.

“Come the Wild Wild Weather” which was featured in the Broadway production of “Waiting in the Wings,” had more personal meaning and he sang it very movingly.

KT returned to the stage and she and Gillett began “I’ll See You Again,” calling the entire cast on stage and getting the audience to sing along. It was a terrific evening with an abundance of first rate talent on stage.

Photos: Russ Weatherford

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