Scott Raneri: Extra! Extra!

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Scott Raneri

Triad Theater, NYC, December 5, 2021

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg

Scott Raneri

Scott Raneri returns to cabaret with a new autobiographical show that is worlds apart from his first, The Marvelous Mr. Marzo. While that was a family tale, this is a professional one.

Extra! Extra! is not a newspaper story; instead, the clever title is based on his career as a background player in films and television. The tales are, as in any good memoir-based nightlife show, by turn comic and heartbreaking. The freshness comes in the telling, and Raneri tells them very well. His singing voice has improved since his first show, both in range and power. There are echoes of Bobby Darin both in his opening routine, “Let Me Entertain You,” and at other points in the show.

Throughout the evening, Raneri showed that special ability of listening to his lyrics. For instance, his “Something’s Coming” is nicely modulated in power, truly expressing hope for the future, and not just blasting out the notes. While most of his selections came from Broadway, he scored big with Janis Ian’s rather strange song “Watercolors” which allowed him to reach an emotional highlight in the show with its emotionally laden lyrics. Of course, that doesn’t mean he can’t let go and have fun with a melody, as when he swings through the show-biz-insider name-dropping lark of music director’s Fred Barton’s “I Can Be an Icon Too.

Unfortunately, Raneri did battle some focus problems during the program, chiefly because of the interference of “friends” seated in the front row who seemed determined to make it all about them. Such “friends” no performer needs. But when he was confident and at the top of his game, he could build a number with an emotional commitment, as he did with “Only in New York” or in his lovely and sincere encore, “When You Wish Upon a Star,” which he delivered with the upmost simplicity and sincerity.

The show was dotted with tales of difficult agents and managers and class distinctions that rival Victorian England between extras, extras with special talents (he qualified for extra pay because of his musical abilities), and actors. And then there were the happy celebrity encounters, such as with Adam Sandler. These detailed stories were both informative and personal, allowing the audience to join Raneri’s journey. Director Mark Copron has helped to shape the show with an invisible hand for maximum impact. Joining Barton in fine musical support were Steve Picatagglo on drums and Dr. David Ashton on multiple instruments.

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."