Mama’s Boys

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Mama’s Boys

Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, April 1, 2019

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg for Cabaret Scenes

Four bears walked into a piano bar and … started singing. Actually, the quartet of “stocky gentlemen in suit jackets” all work in the piano bar at Don’t Tell Mama when they’re not appearing on Broadway, in national tours, at regional theaters, or on the occasional cruise ship.
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So, there was nothing more natural for them but to join forces and create a cabaret show that offered them a chance to sing some close harmonies, dazzle with some choreography (courtesy of Sean Bernardi) on a very crowded stage, offer up some solo work, and indulge in some deliciously campy medleys.

The song selection ranged from classic to contemporary Broadway, as well as an equal dose of pop, old and new. Paul Pilcz offered some touching work on ballads, such as “Love Yourself” (Ed Sheeran/Benny Blanco/Justin Bieber), and blended with Jon Satrom’s moving “King of Wishful Thinking” (Peter Cox/Richard Drummie/Martin Page). Both Brian Kalinowski’s “Me” (Paula Cole) and Tommy J. Dose’s “Have a Little Faith in Me” (John Hiatt) showed a fine attention to lyrics as well as to melody.

But the special delights of the evening came when the group worked as a team under the excellent music direction of Elliot Roth (with contributions from bassist Amanda Ruzza and drummer Brian Fishler). A doo-wop medley had the fellows smoothly trading off positions as they took turns taking leads or providing the all-important back-up vocals. A riotous campy Broadway medley fast-forwarded through “Three Little Girls from School” (with fans), “Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now” (with wigs), “Dreamgirls” (with a twist of the wigs), and “The Theme from New York, New York.”

Performing before a packed room of friends and family, some details slipped through that might require more care in the future. It would have been nice if the guys had actually introduced themselves by full names.
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Some jokes were evidently very funny for those who knew the backgrounds, but left those of us on the outside puzzled (the word “tambourine” evidently evoked some hysterical memory). But, the fine-tuning will come with time and this is a quartet worth a second look.

Bart Greenberg

Bart Greenberg first discovered cabaret a few weeks after arriving in New York City by seeing Julie Wilson and William Roy performing Stephen Sondheim and Cole Porter outdoors at Rockefeller Center. It was instant love for both Ms. Wilson and the art form. Some years later, he was given the opportunity to create his own series of cabaret shows while working at Tower Records. "Any Wednesday" was born, a weekly half-hour performance by a singer promoting a new CD release. Ann Hampton Callaway launched the series. When Tower shut down, Bart was lucky to move the program across the street to Barnes & Noble, where it thrived under the generous support of the company. The series received both The MAC Board of Directors Award and The Bistro Award. Some of the performers who took part in "Any Wednesday" include Barbara Fasano and Eric Comstock, Tony Desare, Andrea Marcovicci, Carole Bufford, the Karens, Akers, Mason and Oberlin, and Julie Wilson. Privately, Greenberg is happily married to writer/photographer Mark Wallis, who as a performance artist in his native England gathered a major following as "I Am Cereal Killer."