By Myra Chanin
Adam Shapiro is a very engaging performer with a powerful stage presence who knocks himself out entertaining any audience he finds himself before. That’s exactly what he did last night at the Metropolitan Room by reprising “Adam Shapiro’s Guide to the Perfect Breakup,” the show that rewarded him with a 2013 MAC Award for the Best Musical Comedy Performer. Its medleys, songs and observations remain applicable to any and all who find themselves on either side of the breakup fence, be it as dumper or dumpee. Granted, it was a bitter night out, not fit for man nor beast, but those who’d avoided breaking a hip scaling the snow-piled corners of Sixth Avenue, filled the showroom with enough warmth to melt all the ice in Chelsea.
In the past I’ve always watched Adam perform in Yiddish plays which both won Drama Desk Nominations. In the New Yiddish Rep’s Death of a Salesman he played Willie Loman’s indifferent employer, and in both runs of the National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene’s hit musical The Golden Bride where he played the energetic matchmaker-cum-wedding-MC-cum-tutued-ballerina, he stole every scene in which he was onstage. His phrasing, pronunciation and accent were so authentic that I was sure he grew up, like I did, in a household where Yiddish was the mother tongue. He actually learned Yiddish phonetically when he was given the lead in the National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene’s production of Gimpel the Fool, a dramatization of an Isaac Bashevis Singer’s masterpiece.
“Adam Shapiro’s Guide to the Perfect Breakup,” one of Cabaret’s Greatest Hits, produced by St. Clements Episcopal Church’s Father Jeffrey Hamblin and Stephen Hanks, opens with an intriguing medley of love songs. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Some Enchanted Evening” is followed by tunes by Bert Kaempfert, Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, Frank Loesser, Bock and Harnick, Stephen Sondheim, Mitch Leigh, Marvin Gaye, even (gasp!) Victor Herbert, Hoagy Carmichael, George Gershwin, Steve Allen, Jonathan Larson, Peggy Lee and ends with Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things.” Shapiro’s Guide basically consists of Ten Rules, some amusing, some touching, and many contradictory. For instance, Rule #1, Be Direct, was illustrated by Fred Barton’s edgy and insincere “Give My Best to the Blonde.” For Rule #2, Be Fair in the Division of Property, Adam danced through Lieber and Stoller’s “Don Juan, Your Money’s Gone,” waving twin fans of greenbacks and singing.
Your kisses were so sweet at thirty thousand feet
Up in that big white jet that you no longer own!
Rule #5, Be Civilized, set Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s brilliant lyrics to Jule Styne’s sprightly tune:
If I had not seen you pen sexy letters
To Gwen in your own hieroglyph
If you had not left me home
When had two seats for South Pacif
But the first and foremost rule was never use the F word with F standing for friend to someone who was ever in love with you.
Adam was touching on tender ballads like “Guess Who I saw Today,” which was introduced in New Faces of 1952 but still has as much meaning today as it ever had. And he admitted that “I Still Believe in Love,” in the Marvin Hamlisch-Carole Bayer Sager hit before his witty encore, “Making Love Alone.” I presume I don’t have to tell you what that was about.
Peter Napolitano, his director, and Barry Levitt, his musical director are putting the finishing touches on a musical that will star Adam called That Way which will have its first public reading in mid-May.