Tim Connell: it’s the joy in your heart

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Tim Connell

it’s the joy in your heart

Pangea, NYC, February 10, 2024

Reviewed by Alix Cohen

Tim Connell


Tim Connell exudes sincerity. A show like this, which sings thankfulness and reaches for the positive, arrived not only as a balm but with credibility. His patter was, as usual, warmly personal.

“Flight” (Craig Carnelia), evoked the memory of Connell’s boyhood Schwinn bike and escaping his enormous family. He connected the lyric lines with the breathless ease of a kite in the wind. The artist has a way of seamlessly shifting octaves and evoking frisson. “Fragile” (Sting)—“On and on the rain will fall/Like tears from a star like tears from a star”—was extremely apropos of the times, ensued without a word of introduction. If it had followed the Carnelia…It did not. A poetic note (at which Connell excels) was missing. A furrowed brow, a wordless vocal, and an a cappella verse were nonetheless affecting.

From there on, the current of the show made sense as Connell settled in. He prefaced John Bucchino’s marvelous “Playbill” with the admission that, being old fashioned, he is uncomfortable with online “swiping” (to date). It was a scene-in-one, showing Connell the actor. The song was understated and evocative. “Anyone Can Whistle” (Stephen Sondheim) was the perfect poignant successor, and it was practically sighed.

A tribute to Connell’s brother, “my everyday hero,” was “The Impossible Dream (The Quest)” (Joe Darion/Mitch Leigh). This song has been done to death, but this quietly tremulous version managed to stand out for what it ws not: a grandiose, showoff performance offered by most singers. At Connell’s instigation, we all raised a glass to everyday heroes. New to me, “The Butterfly” (Neil Bartram), was as a tender fable about influencing others without being aware of it. In Connell’s capable hands, it was like a lullaby.

Deftly weaving together Paul Simon’s “American Suite,” Irving Berlin’s “Give Me Your Tired” (partly recited), and Kathleen Lee Bates/Samuel Ward’s “America the Beautiful” was touching, unfussy, and just right in length and warmly “in the spirit of me ma.” This Irishman sounded like a gentle preacher. “Grateful” (Bucchino) summed up Connell’s feelings: “I’ve got a roof over my head/I’ve got a warm place to sleep/Some nights I lie awake counting gifts/Instead of counting sheep.” The attitude was admirable, but it was difficult to sustain.

Caveats: The first song, Jason Mraz’s pop “Make It Mine,” offered no welcome, seemed to have nothing to do with the show’s through line and was stylistically unsuited to the performer. I also didn’t understand the inclusion of “Satan’s Little Lamb” (Johnny Mercer/E.Y. Harburg) with its out-of-the-blue reference to sensory overload, or “Hit Me with a Hot Note” (Don George/Duke Ellington) which was performed with playful, bobble-headed infectiousness. The show’s trajectory was not always clear.

This was first time I’ve seen the Connell sit during half of his performance, which diminished the energy and, especially in this room, cut off the view for a large part of the audience. Even though this show was uneven, I remain a Tim Connell fan. His tenor was lovely, and his sensibility was thoroughly appealing. Mark Chmiel directed, and James Followell was the music director/pianist.

Alix Cohen

Alix Cohen’s writing began with poetry, segued into lyrics then took a commercial detour. She now authors pieces about culture/the arts, including reviews and features. A diehard proponent of cabaret, she’s also a theater aficionado, a voting member of Drama Desk, The Drama League and of The NY Press Club in addition to MAC. Currently, Alix writes for Cabaret Scenes, Theater Pizzazz and Woman Around Town. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine and Times Square Chronicles. Alix is the recipient of six New York Press Club Awards.