Boca Black Box Theater, Boca Raton, FL, February 11, 2017
Reviewed by Jeffrey Bruce for Cabaret Scenes
With a nod to Mr. Coward, “I’ve been to a marvelous party.” In truth, a spectacular party at the new, wonderful Boca Black Box Theater. Randy Singer opened the Black Box 18 months ago, and it was successful from the beginning. I had no idea what to expect and, when I walked in to see the place as packed as it was, it was encouraging. My fingers were crossed for the performance. I needn’t have worried.
Sal Richards, whom I had heard of but, unfortunately, never had seen, was throwing himself a birthday party performance, and it was, simply, terrific.
A good looking man of indeterminate years, the evening opened with film snippets of Sal in Law & Order, Deadline, Rounders (with Matt Damon) and something called Out for Justice opposite that Laurence Olivier of today, Steven Seagal.
Note: I am referring to him as “Sal” because he was immediately likeable and the huge audience treated him as if he were in their living room. In fact, I have never seen a professional performer so adorably endearing, where you just sit back and allow his talents (and there are many) to run over you.
Backed by a terrific trio—Tom West on drums, Jan Hinton on keyboard and Tony Kessler on bass guitar—Sal was, in his own words, “a characterist,” rather than an impressionist. He reacted to audience requests for Dean Martin, Johnny Cash, Al Martino, and two others that were spot on: Tony Bennett and Tom Jones, as he wold be today, accompanied by hysterical age-appropriate choreography. When he sang in his own voice, not as often as I would have liked, he was equally terrific.
And does he know his audience! Talking about South Florida, air travel, condoms in Boca (“Why???”), dogs that sleep with their owners, and weight-loss programs, to name just a few of a lengthy litany, Sal put a new, funny spin on all of the old chestnuts. His performance lasted for just under two hours and I, for one, wanted more!
A Vegas veteran, Sal is an old-school, show biz pro. Is his voice great? No, but it’s more than serviceable. Is his humor “of the day”? No, but funnier. Then what is his specialty? I would have to say: his interaction with the audience. This was, truly, the first “love fest” I have ever been to where the affection worked from both the stage as well as the audience. Many in attendance have followed Sal for over 40 years. It’s easy to see why.
One personal moment: While he was in the audience making the rounds, he spotted me, notebook in lap, pen in hand. He asked,”Whaddya…? Copying my material?” I answered that I was reviewing him, and he proceeded to throw his arms around me, proclaiming, “I love you,” and then, beseeching the audience, “Folks, when you’re leaving the theater, throw the reviewer a few bucks each, will ya? It couldn’t hurt.” Well, Sal, it did hurt. I am referring to my ribs from laughing too plentifully.
Sal resides in West Palm Beach. I hope I run into him again, because, after all, he’s my new best friend.