Charlie Romo & Friends

| May 19, 2017

Charlie Romo & Friends

Metropolitan Room, NYC, May 14, 2017

Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Charlie Romo

Charlie Romo is like a kid in a candy store. With youthful enthusiasm and free-spirited gusto he practically levitates from the stage, working the room with a canniness well beyond his 21 years. He is a likable, natural performer who chose his path early on. At age eight he was already hooked by musical eclecticism, precociously listening to his encore number, “I Got a Woman” (Ray Charles/Renald Richard) on his walkman. On this Mother’s Day, the Metropolitan Room was filled with thrilled family and friends, a telling indicator of where he’s come from and where he’s headed.

Romo’s style is classic Las Vegas pop, sometimes bordering on lounge and sometimes on jazz, as with his opener, “Don’t Rain on My Parade” (Jule Styne/Bob Merrill), and a swinging “Just in Time” (Styne/Betty Comden & Adolph Green). His most effective voicings are with “up” tunes. He’s got a naturally loud speaking and singing voice and, while he is aware of dynamics, he hasn’t yet mastered the art of toning his volume down overall. A little mezzo piano would have benefited songs such as “Once Upon a Time” (Charles Strouse/Lee Adams) and “The Second Time Around” (Jimmy Van Heusen/Sammy Cahn). By contrast, in this well-chosen and eclectic set, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” (Bob Crewe/Bob Guadio) was beautifully executed, as was an undeniably spectacular medley centered around the hit “American Pie,” with snippets of rock songs made famous by The Big Bopper, Buddy Holly, and Richie Valens, the singers who inspired it and who were killed in a plane crash in what Don McLean’s “American Pie” lyric refers to as “the day the the music died.”     

Romo’s friends were several. Visiting from Los Angeles, the supercharged, engaging Starlite Sisters aced “Pistol Packin’ Mama” (Al Dexter), originally sung by the Andrews Sisters with Bing Crosby (Romo in that role). Duets were largely disappointing, and included a pop version of Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” with Joie Bianco, “You’re Just in Love” (Irving Berlin) with Valerie DiLorenzo, and “If I Ruled the World” (Leslie Bricusse /Cyril Ornadel) with Mauna Kea Chan. Romo performed an appealingly sweet rendition of “Two of a Kind” (Bobby Darin/Johnny Mercer) with Musical Director/pianist Barry Levitt. Levitt’s quartet provided top-drawer accompaniment, with Boots Maleson on bass, guitarist Jack Cavari, and drummer Ronnie Zito.

Romo is an unabashed idolizer of crooners past, especially Bobby Darin, and herein lies the down side to his prodigious talent: he needs to be less of his heroes and more of himself. Although his Darin medley and “Mack the Knife” (Kurt Weill/Bertolt Brecht/Marc Blitzstein) were truly splendid, these renditions too much emulated Darin’s style and delivery.

There’s no doubt that Charlie Romo is an exciting new talent. His youthful energy and enthusiasm is engaging. As time goes on, if he becomes less blatantly starstruck, develops more of himself and his own style, and edges into the kind of sophistication that his idols cultivated, he should go very far indeed.

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

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