Marieann Meringolo: A Lot of Livin’ to Do!

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Marieann Meringolo

A Lot of Livin’ to Do!

Chelsea Table + Stage, NYC, March 10, 2023

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg

Marieann Meringolo
Photo: Devon Cass

There are nights in the world of cabaret where everything just comes together and works right. Such was the occasion of Marieann Meringolo’s first of three performances (one per month) at Chelsea Table + Stage. Each will have a slightly different song list and a different guest star. She has set a very high standard for herself. The singer’s voice has grown over the years in both tone and range; it is now a burnished instrument that slides up and down the scale with no noticeable break and has all the required thrilling top notes required. For a show without a central theme, it flowed very well with many subtle themes connecting one song with the next, via themes, attitudes, or the same lyricists, so that it never felt disconnected, a flawl of so many shows. This was smart cabaret.

Throughout the evening, she was backed up by three tremendous musicians who seemed totally in sync with each other and her: music director Doyle Newmyer on piano, Boots Maleson on bass, and Brian Woodruff on drums. The show began with kinetic versions of the title number, “A Lot of Livin’ to Do,” and “Are You Having Any Fun?,” and the audience was immediately drawn into the entertainment. Meringolo’s perfect enunciation aided the audience in relaxing and allowed us to enter into her world, whether it was the comedy of “Italian Menu,” a patter number that allowed her  to celebrate cultural foods (in the same way that Danny Kaye celebrated Russian composers), or the subtle passion of “Fifty Percent,” or her unexpectedly humorous take on the 1960s musical angst of Vicki Carr’s hit “It Must Be You.”

Guest star Jeff Harnar added greatly to the evening’s merriment. Digging into Cole Porter’s “Can Can” with abandon and precise enunciation, he was the very definition of fun. Following that, he offered a brilliant blend of “But the World Goes ’Round” and “That’s Life,” giving us a view of romance and life in general that was both fatalistic and optimistic at the same time. Finally, he returned to the stage for a daring duet with Meringolo that recalled the legendary meeting of Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand and the “Get Happy”/“Happy Days Are Here Again” arrangement that has been attempted many times in cabaret circles and which just as often has failed to come off. These two artists made it work not by attempting to imitate the originals, but instead by offering a very tight and intimate performance.

Much of the glow of the evening was no doubt due to the input of director Will Nunziata. But it was Meringolo with her endearing bounce and her ease with her material and with her audience that really brought it all home. It’s clear that her two follow-up shows will be just as distinguished. So, are you having any fun? You certainly will if you spend the evening with her.

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."