Howard McGillin: Never Been Younger

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Howard McGillin

Never Been Younger

Birdland, NYC, April 22, 2019

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg for Cabaret Scenes

Howard McGillin
Photo: Kevin Alvey

Howard McGillin, the classic Broadway leading man, made his solo cabaret show debut at Birdland with his floating tenor firmly in place, bringing a personality that is both elegant and casual. Kicking off with a clever blending of “You Make Me Feel So Young” and “I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore,” the singer guided the enthralled audience through a survey of his career and his life. His at-times giddy humor and soft-shoe steps indeed made him appear to be eternally young.

A well-chosen program of songs, many drawn from his Broadway résumé, a nice mix of standards (“A Foggy Day in London Town”) and surprises (“Have You Got Any Castles, Baby?

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”) (Richard Whiting/Johnny Mercer), illuminated the story he had to tell. A good part of the program was devoted to songs by Stephen Sondheim, including “Everybody Says Don’t”—his professor’s discouraging response to his going into show business —leading into “Putting It Together,” building his career. Here McGillin demonstrated his ability to handle intricate lyrics with remarkable fluency. Even sharing an amusing story about his estrangement from the dean of songwriters did not dampen his sheer joy in delivering “What More Do I Need?

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A particularly touching moment came when the star offered an unexpected number, Elton John’s “Daniel” (written with Bernie Taupin), dedicated to his brother who had introduced him to the songwriter and was present in the audience. And for sheer magic, there was his delivery of “I Get Along Without You Very Well” with utter simplicity.

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On the other hand, “Everybody Loves My Baby” embodied unlimited energy and dazzle.

Music director/pianist Joseph Thalken provided smooth and steady support throughout.

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."