Reviewed by Joe Regan Jr.
December 10, 2013
Anita Gillette, one of Broadway’s busiest ingénues in the late Fifties and Sixties, returned to New York two years ago after many years in Hollywood working in films and TV, most notably as the other woman in “Moonstruck.” After a spectacular debut at Birdland in a show I made one of my Top Twelve of the Year, she participated in a very special Johnny Mercer event at the Eugene O’Neill Center, and a few months ago did a show at 54 Below with Penny Fuller.
Gillette is back with “After All…“ a solo show with new autobiographical elements that utilize Gillette’s great comic timing and mimic skills. Gillette has hired some of the best to work on this show: Barry Kleinbort as director and writer of special lyrics; Paul Greenwood as musical director, arranger and pianist, Steve Doyle on bass, and Steve Bartoski on drums and percussion. Greenwood, Doyle, and Bartoski all sing backup and some clever counter melodies! If I were going to label Anita Gillette today, I would call her “One Young Red Hot Mama” because that’s the image she shows in one of the best acts of this year! The show is full of great personal memories of Irving Berlin, David Merrick, Joshua Logan, Richard Rodgers, Jule Styne, Mel Brooks, Richard Gere, Ethel Merman, and Norman Jewison.
Gillette opens with a great up number, “I Can’t Be Bothered Now” (Gershwins/Jimmy McHugh) merged with Frank Loesser’s “Happy Go Lucky.” We get her early biography growing up in Baltimore and loving both Jeanette MacDonald music and the Andrew Sisters,with sampling of both with “Italian Street Song” and “Cuanto le Gusta” showing that the years have not diminished her clarion pipes! There’s a great story about how she fell in love with Dr. Gillette, her first husband, who was a clinical research scientist who brought his specimens home to their refrigerator.
New, was a great story about how she got pregnant when doing her first show as Dainty June in “Gypsy” on Broadway – Ms. Merman would not let the producers fire her! She was the standby for Lili in “Carnival” and went on the day after she gave her notice because she got a great part in “Gay Life.” She had a great song and costume in that show which was cut on the road. She sang that song, a sumptuous torch song “I Lost the Love of Anatol” (Schwartz-Dietz). She returned to “Carnival” replacing the lead.
Berlin became a big fan when she was appearing in “All American” and she created the part of the President’s daughter in “Mr. President.” We got great comic chops as she recreated “The Secret Service.” In honor of Mr. Berlin, Gillette sang a sensitive medley of “How Deep Is the Ocean” and “Remember.”
There was a brief bit of a song from “Kelly” the biggest flop in Broadway history at the time. She played showgirl Betty Compson in the musical about Mayor Jimmy Walker and was handed “Oh Gee!” just before the first performance! “Oh Gee” is a great period number and she saluted her co-star in the audience, everyone’s idol Julie Wilson!
New was a hysterically funny story about visiting the White House honoring foreign diplomats! She was chosen to sing “Yesterdays” at Otto Harbach’s funeral. After she sang it beautifully, she sang some clever lyrics by Kleinbort about what actually was going on in her mind in front of all those powerful composers and producers at the Jewish funeral!
Her second husband was a sound man on “They’re Playing Our Song,” who read Proust in French and Faulkner in English. He died too soon and her moving homage to him was “Did I Really Live?” (Albert Hague/Allan Sherman) and “I Still Believe in Love” from that show. Gillette received a standing ovation. Her encore was a bouncy “Are You Having Any Fun” which sent the audience out into the night with a great warm feeling. Don’t miss one of the top shows of the year!
Anita Gillette’s After All repeats at the Metropolitan Room December 16 and 17 at 7PM. Reservations are strongly suggested. Don’t miss one of the top shows of the year!
www.metropolitanroom.com 212 206-0440
Photos Unless Noted by MaryAnn Lopinto
Video: Sandi Durell