Michael McAssey and Guests: Piano Bar Reunion

| November 17, 2015

Michael McAssey and Guests

Piano Bar Reunion

Metropolitan Room, NYC, November 6, 2015

Reviewed by Rob Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Michael-McAssey-Cabaret-Scenes-Magazine_212There’s something warm and cozy about a piano bar and its singers and something even warmer and cozier about a piano bar ambiance that reunites entertainers and regular patrons of years gone by.  In the most recent of a series of Piano Bar Reunion events (the next one will be in two December 13 spots at the Iridium), Scott Barbarino’s ScoBar Productions again corralled old-timers.   Once upon a time they’d been good-time entertainers in Manhattan’s sing-along/sip-along piano bars, some long gone. Tickling the ivories once again, while—with schtick—tickling the memory banks of some slightly grayer fans who’d come to nestle in a night of nostalgia, pianist/singer/host Michael McAssey (pictured), tongue in cheek and survivalist sarcasm in check, led the flashback festivities, with nothing but a few updated topical references in comedy songs to remind us that time had gone by. “With a Wink and a Smile” was fun and an apt M.O. description. There’s no denying that his well-remembered L.O.L. signature about being in “Denial” delivered, followed by its writer, Rick Crom, for more strong song hilarity. With a large group served appetizers as he began a sing-along, he suggested the eaters just “chew in time to the music.” André Montgomery snarkily snarled a super-good “Goody Goody,” and warmly saluting the much-missed Nancy LaMott with “The Child in Me Again.” In fine voice, Naomi Reddin Naughton told of first entering a piano bar, seeing Kristine Zbornik with the pianist’s tip jar—on her head! (It was Don’t Tell Mama; she, like zany Zbornik, later became a singing cocktail waitress there, then got a singing gigs nearby—in Broadway musicals.  Although I’d never crossed paths with our sole lady singer, it didn’t matter because one moment was so well set up and delivered that her sweet emotional personal rekindling with Michael and an old standard got to me. “That’s All” was her wedding song delivered by him at her marriage ceremony. This 2015 night, after years of coupledom and a couple of kids, she sang it for him—and us. And I heard those at the table behind me, onetime barflies in at Eighty-Eight’s in Greenwich Village, sigh audibly when certain other memories were stirred.

As luck had it, the room was dominated by busloads of French-speaking tourists. (Oh well… C’est la vie!) However, language barrier was no insurmountable hurdle for these unflappable pros. Before launching into a specialty comedy number, the lyric of which consisted of nothing but phrases and clichés en francais, Michael quipped, “This will either be the hit of the night, or you’ll all be throwing food at me in about one minute.” Fingers crossed, caution thrown to the international winds, it got giggles and mighty applause, a big hit for sure. And guess what: even those French visitors who looked cluelessly puzzled at the parade of show tunes and originals seemed to know every word of two Kander and Ebb hits, as they sang and shouted along: “(Theme from) New York, New York” and “Cabaret.” Fred Ebb would have grinned.

The holiday-themed piano bar reunion event at the Iridium on Broadway will bring back Bobby Peaco with Lisa Asher, Aaron Lee Battle, Alison Briner, Kathy “Babe” Robinson and  Jay Rogers.

Whether you were around in those days or those bars or neither, I think you’ll be swept along, as I was. Good fun and good songs know no age and, apparently, music really IS the universal language.

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Category: Cabaret Reviews, New York City, New York City Cabaret Reviews

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