Changes  – Always With A Song In Her Heart






by Lisa Reitman-Dobi



Arlene Wolff didn’t do a show. She didn’t do a performance of musical interpretations. Everyone in the audience felt it: that familiar cabaret act was missing.


What a blessing.


In theater, we say, “Show. Don’t tell.” Enter Arlene Wolff. She showed what we’ve been missing. Remove interpretations. Remove the act. Remove the performance. What have you? Arlene Wolff, a woman who uncovers in each and every song that concealed emotive spark that lies at the heart of every timeless piece.


Arlene Wolff returns to the stage following five decades of impassioned exploration, travel, ceaseless curiosity, years of growth in mind and spirit.   She returns with her signature feisty wit and lush voice. Add to that an open heart that has embraced almost every single part of the world, and the word “performance” is as germane as one fallen sequin at the Oscars. Arlene made her entrance into the packed room, singing “You Gotta See Momma.” And the way she sang it, you knew you’d better. Arlene has a new air of self-assurance, a well-earned confidence, but without an ounce of hubris. She loves what she does and the audience loves her authenticity and her sheer delight. As she walked past each table, her hand outstretched in greeting, her song grew richer and more inspiring. By the time she reached the stage, that reciprocal warmth and enthusiasm had charged the air with an excitement that defines Arlene Wolff.


It is clear that Arlene has reached a new level of polish. It’s a distinctive tier of professionalism that retains her charm, authenticity, candor and fabulous humor. No cookie cutter banter here. Delivered by Arlene, humor from real life cannot be beat. Arlene’s wit is spontaneous, sharp and candid. The best way to sum up her sassy skills is to offer a simple observation: she made my table companion laugh to the point of tears. And he was not the only one. He was just the only one who got a tissue from me.


From “Lonesome Road” to “The More I See You,” each song stemmed from her very core, filling the room with decades of high hopes, vast disappointments, fervent desires, feverish heartbreak and an optimism that can exist only in the very young or the eternally young, i.e. Arlene Wolff. This was not a song-list   Paired with Arlene’s love of life and a life filled with loves, these songs were eloquent illustrations made of music.


It isn’t often that an artist can shift from the apex of comedy to the exceptional poignancy that defines “Ten Cents A Dance.” This was the first time I felt the spot-on melancholy in this song. Arlene’s voice, body, eyes, her entire being conveyed desperate hope and destined sorrow. Now there were tears in my eyes.


Following a snappy intermezzo about never having “played Florida,” Arlene kicked off an exhilarating “Miami Beach Rhumba.”  As with every single song, Arlene captivates; this is music from the heart, but beyond that, her repertoire is infused with vivid, jubilant memory, crystal clear and transporting. Before you know it, she’s taken your hand and you’re flying through time with her.


People often talk about “a fresh addition” to music genres, whether cabaret, musical theater or pop.   Usually, it’s a newcomer, a young face on the scene, the latest ingénue. That said, Arlene Wolff presents one of the freshest entertainment experiences out there. Her return brings renewal. And in my book, renewal beats re-makes by a landslide.


Arlene was accompanied by a first-rate ensemble: Ian Herman, her musical director, on the piano, Dave Dunaway on bass and Howie Gordon on drums. The audience was treated to Ian Herman’s performance of “Bop,” one of his own compositions. This is the kind of talent and spontaneity that captures New York nightlife. As always, Jean Pierre Perreaux provided first-rate sound and light.


The Metropolitan Room is more than one of New York’s iconic nightclubs. It has a welcoming atmosphere, a generosity of spirit that can only exist when the staff is happy. As Manager Joseph Macchio puts it, “We’re a family here. We all work together.”   The result? A friendly, efficient staff and customers who look forward to returning. From Nora Davis’s and Vincent Smith’s convivial reception, to our witty and attentive waiter, Steven James, every aspect of the evening was delightful. Top it off with drinks by Erik Grimsland and it’s no wonder we were the last to leave.


Watch the cabaret calendar for Arlene Wolff’s next appearance. In a world of more uncertainly and less opportunity, we all need Arlene Wolff to give us “A Kiss to Build A Dream On.” Spend an evening with this extraordinary woman, and you will believe that there are, indeed, Blue Skies ahead.    212 206-0440