April 1st was a landmark day in cabaret in Los Angeles. First there was the opening of Sterling’s Upstairs in its new location at the Federal. Previously these concerts were held at Vitello’s Restaurant but this new location is beautiful and the food is terrific. I had an outstanding chicken potpie and several people around me had huge delicious-looking hamburgers.
The next event was a new show from Bruce Kimmel (the man who knows everything about show business). The show was called the Bob Merrill Show and featured music from much of the music that is Bob Merrill’s legacy. Bruce had with him his usual contingent of wonderful singers, Julie Garnye, Juliana Hansen, Melody Hollis (the 13 year old sensation), and two guys, Kristopher McNeeley and Jeffery Christopher Todd, and a very special appearance by the marvelous Lainie Kazan.
Juliana Hansen lent her innocent demeanor to several songs from Carnival (“Very Nice Man” and Mira”. She also sang from an obscure flop Breakfast at Tiffany’s (with book by Edward Albee). The song however was gorgeous “I’ve Got A Penny”. She also took on another flop Henry Sweet Henry based on the movie The World of Henry Orient. The song is the sweet “I’m Blue Too”.
Melody Hollis wowed us with her rendition of “I’m The Greatest Star” from Funny Girl, bringing her own touches to this iconic song. She also sang a sweet song from Henry Sweet Henry, Poor Little Person”. My favorite bit of Melody was to sing a medley of Merrill’s pop tunes, “Honeycomb”, “Mambo Italiano”, ”Doggy”, and “Cake” (as in “If I Knew You Were Coming I’d have Baked a Cake”.
I was less satisfied with the men’s selections. First they sang several songs from New Girl in Town, Take Me Along that was fine. Then we got them in drag for “The Beauty That Drives Me Mad” from Sugar (not so good). Finally they mangled two selections, Jeffrey with “Who Are You Now “ from Funny Girl and Kristofer’s "Her Face" from Carnival. But in their defense these songs weren’t really right for the singers.
Julie Garnye was superb! First she sang a lovely song from another flop, Prettybelle. A real gem sung by a consummate artist. She really showed her stuff when she sang “People” from Funny Girl and then a rousing “Don’t Rain on my Parade”.
When it was Lainie Kazan’s turn she shared with us some stories from Funny Girl (she was Streisand’s understudy) and then she sang my favorite song from Funny Girl, “The Music That Makes Me Dance” which had been cut from the movie and replaced with “My Man” (not a Merrill song).All told the evening was a success as was the new locale. There will be many promising nights of cabaret ahead.