Avery Sommers & Michael Masci

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Avery Sommers & Michael Masci

The Pelican Café, Lake Park, FL, July 6, 2017

Reviewed by Lynn DiMenna for Cabaret Scenes

Avery Sommers & Michael Masci

Folks in the Palm Beach, Florida area have a treat in store for them if they reserve now to see the perfect combination of Broadway and Royal Room at The Colony Hotel veteran, Avery Sommers, and her rising star accompanist, Michael Anthony Masci, who will be accompanying her for a third evening at The Pelican Café in Lake Park on September 7.

Not knowing quite what to expect, in early July, my husband and I made our way south, on 95 from Vero Beach to this charming New England-style restaurant right outside of Palm Beach that promotes itself as having a “Nantucket meets the Florida Keys” vibe. Since 2008, its traditional yet innovative menu reflects the congenial owners’ combined years in the restaurant business honing their skills. In fact, the team of Mark Frangione and Karen Howe have pooled their expertise, gleaned from years in some of Greenwich, Connecticut’s finest establishments and, with The Pelican Café, have created a little gem!

After a very warm welcome, the wildly talented area resident, Michael Anthony Masci, who has worked The Colony Hotel’s Polo Lounge for years and just returned from a triumphant month at the famed Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle Hotel in New York, headed for the strategically placed keyboard in the main dining area. Despite the challenge of connecting with diners in two separate but adjoining rooms, he immediately pulled them in by opening his set with some familiar standards—“The Late, Late Show,” “Beyond the Sea,” and “Love Is Here to Stay”—performed in his characteristic easy, breezy, yet totally energetic and entertaining style. It worked to set up what would be the main attraction…the great Avery Sommers.

Sommers, also a local resident, has performed in starring roles on Broadway, including Ain’t Misbehavin’, and in national tours of Chicago with Chita Rivera and Joel Grey and Best Little Whorehouse in Texas with Ann-Margret. She’s also had multiple engagements at The Royal Room at The Colony Hotel, and appeared alongside Burt Reynolds in several of his most popular movies.

Deftly handling the restaurant’s challenging floor plan like the seasoned pro that she is, and with an adoring and enthusiastic audience hooting and hollering, Sommers opened with “I Love Being Here with You.” It was quite obvious from the outset that she does, indeed, love what she’s doing and she means every single word of this Peggy Lee/Bill Schluger song.

I asked the ebullient belter how she walks the fine line, in a restaurant setting, between looking to receive a diner’s full attention or simply providing background and enhancing a dining experience, and she gave a simple, straightforward response. “I work for the people in front of me and try to connect with their memories and, when I get close, they just know to listen.”

She then broke into a spirited “Georgia on My Mind,” followed by a very amusing story about a chance meeting with Tommy Tune in an elevator in New York that led to an audition for Ain’t Misbehavin’ and taking over for Nell Carter on Broadway.

It was “Stormy Monday Blues,” however, that eventually brought the diners to their feet and turned the evening into a happening. She feels those blues in her bones and the appreciative audience let her know exactly how she made them feel as well. She kept the momentum going with “You’re Gonna Hear from Me” and a nod to Ella Fitzgerald’s centennial year that included “Just One of Those Things.” With her full-throated Bessie Smith wail, and the space limitations of the room, the sound system was set at just the right level so that she could be heard above the din, but was not at all intrusive.

It came as no surprise that she had great praise for her piano man. “Michael is just a wonderful accompanist with an infectious energy, a warm, engaging smile and an enthusiastic spirit. It’s a joy to have him playing for me!

Both Masci’s wife, Blanca DeGarr Masci (a former child actress, singer and star of TV’s Rags to Riches hit show in the ’80s) and their adorable son, Richie, were there showing support.

BREAKING NEWS: From August 22 to September 24, Michael will be accompanying the delightfully devilish “coquette” Carole J. Bufford in a show called Roar…The Music of the ’20s and Beyond at The Florida Studio Theater in Sarasota. 

If you’re lucky enough to be planning a trip up north, you can catch Michael back at Bemelmans Bar in New York City on Sundays in October.

Avery Sommers & Michael Masci
September 7
The Pelican Café
612 US-1, Lake Park, FL

Lynn DiMenna

Lynn DiMenna has enjoyed a multi-faceted career in the entertainment world. She’s been guest vocalist with the Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller and Count Basie orchestras, as well as a featured “girl singer” with the Stan Rubin Orchestra and The Tavern on the Green All Stars. As a cabaret headliner and CD recording artist, her shows have played clubs from New York’s Stage 72 at The Triad, Metropolitan Room, Laurie Beechman Theater and Birdland to L.A.’s Gardenia. For nearly two decades, she hosted cabaret-focused radio shows in the New York metropolitan area, and now is a contributing writer and reviewer for Cabaret Scenes magazine and its website.