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Melissa Manchester: The Fellas

| September 16, 2017

Melissa Manchester

The Fellas

Birdland, NYC, September 11, 2017

Reviewed by Ron Forman for Cabaret Scenes

Melissa Manchester

1970s pop star Melissa Manchester made her Birdland debut to introduce her 21st album, The Fellas. Backed by seven musicians on stage, and video recordings of the Blue Note Orchestra of Citrus College (Manchester is resident artist there), she displayed the voice and powerful delivery that made her a star 40 years ago. The Fellas pays tribute to nine male vocalists whom she worked with or greatly admired. In addition, she was especially effective when she reprised some of the songs she is associated with, sitting at the piano without the video background. Her demeanor was engaging when introducing each number with a personal anecdote or her reason for choosing the artist.

The opening numbers were tributes to Dean Martin and Johnny Mathis: “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” and “Chances Are.” She told about working with Marvin Hamlisch before performing a particularly moving “Through the Eyes of Love (Theme from Ice Castles),” backed by a video of Hamlisch conducting the Pasadena Pops playing his melody, with Manchester singing the Carole Bayer Sager lyric. She remembered the classic 1963 album John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, before performing “They Say It’s Wonderful” with only saxophone accompaniment à la Coltrane.

Manchester was at her very best at the piano with only that accompaniment for her first hit recording, “Midnight Blue.” Her arrangement for “Night and Day” nicely meshed Frank Sinatra’s romantic early 1940s version with his 1957 swinging recording with a Nelson Riddle arrangement. She went back to the piano for a moving “Come In from the Rain” to commemorate the anniversary of 9/11. She remembered Nat King Cole and composer Charlie Chaplin with “Smile” (words added by Geoffrey Parsons and John Turner) and later showed a video she recorded with Barry Manilow of “Love Is Just Around the Corner” that had her scatting like Mel Tormé. Sitting alone at the piano, she once again displayed her amazing voice, getting a well-deserved standing ovation for “Don’t Cry Out Loud.” Another standing ovation followed her closing number, a salute to Tony Bennett, “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” Her encore was her composition “You Gotta Love the Life,” ending with her furiously pounding the piano.

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

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