Bob Simonello: On My Way

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Bob Simonello

On My Way

The Green Room 42, NYC, April 28, 2024

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg

Bob Simonello

Bob Simonello took his audience on his personal journey in search of love and happiness, showing a great deal of wit and invention. With a strong and versatile musical backup, he offered an intriguing and varied selections of songs, quite a few of which had additional lyrics he had written to illustrate his tales. He started the evening with a rockish “Somebody to Love You” (Delbert McClinton), which featured a funky harmonica accompaniment by Gary Schreiner (who doubled on accordion). This number stated the theme of the evening and led to some surprising musical arrangements by pianist Jeff Harris. This was very smart cabaret.

He began his sexual journey in his late teens in the most unlikely setting of the ice-cream palace Serendipity, where he was picked up by a mature gentleman who whisked him off to the gay play land of Fire Island. There he discovered the joys of “An Occasional Man” (Ralph Blaine/Hugh Martin, with additional lyrics by Simonello), a wicked paean to the joys of casual living and casual sex. In contrast, his coming out to himself was celebrated with a sensitive delivery of “A Quiet Thing” (John Kander/Fred Ebb). This repurposing of the song was indeed effective. To continue this shift between the profane and the romantic, he detailed his shifting tastes in “Trashy Men” (Jerry Jeff Walker/Chris Wall with additional lyrics by Simonello). He yearned for “A Sunday Kind of Love” (Barbara Belle/Anita Leonard/Stan Rhodes & Louis Prima), and he regretted the might-have-beens while cruising bookstores with “The People That You Never Get to Love” (Rupert Holmes). One more misguided attraction involved a gentleman whose main virtue was the impressive size of his endowment, as he recalled in “Until Now” (Ron Able/Chuck Steffa).

Then a real romance developed. With a brilliantly devised song cycle Simonello tracked the rise and fall of a love affair from the sheer joy of finding love to the heartbreak at the end. An exuberant blast off was a mash-up of “Orange Colored Sky” (Milton Delugg/William Stein) and “I’ve Got the World on a String” (Ted Koehler/Harold Arlen). As the emotions deepened, unconditional love developed as expressed in “What More Can I Say?” (William Finn). The course of true love often doesn’t go smoothly, and he had to ask “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” (Michel Legrand/Alan and Marilyn Bergman). The relationship ended with “Another Mister Right” (Jonathan Sheffer/David Zippel) blended effectively with “In the Name of Love” (Cy Coleman/A.E. Hotchner) delivered in an expert torchy style.

In the end, Simonello discovered that his most important relationship was with himself, and in that he found great contentment—“On My Way to You” (Legrand/the Bergmans)—and he could happily declare “I’m Living Alone and I Like It” (Jack Yellen/Dan Dougherty with additional lyrics by Simonello). This highly satisfying evening was directed by Kristine Zbornik and Michael Schiralli, and featured fine work by Steve Singer on drums and Scott Thornton on bass, along with the musicians previously mentioned. This show was the smartest sort of cabaret—intelligent, witty, and intensely personal.

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."