by Susan Hasho
However you present it—Blake Zolfo starred in “25: A Premature Retrospective,” was accompanied by the illustrious Steve Schalchlin or Steve Schalchlin, actor, songwriter and creator of the show The Last Session at the Metropolitan Room. Either way, these two charmers were retrospecting through a totally refreshing evening with some great material. The concept was clear: Blake, 25 years old, is too young to retrospect and Steve, on piano and vocals, sardonically supported the retrospective. But along the way, one realized that in our Justin Bieber world, 25 is older than 15; and our culture is good at assigning failure at any age.
Zolfo opened with a Country Western-style song “Only Kind of Music,” written by Schalchlin, that proclaims it was the “only kind of music I can play” and he finished by whipping out a kazoo. “Triple Threat” (Schalchlin/Shapiro) catalogs all the jobs it takes to have being a performer “by-the-way I sing” sideline. “If I Only Had a Brain” was a beautifully simple surprise and one of many. Followed by “Can I Be a Child” (Schalchlin/Zolfo), Mr. Zolfo proved himself to be not only sweetly funny with a strong, beautiful voice, but a guy who holds back a little and sticks with the emotional truth of a moment.
As a result, Blake Zolfo self-confidently lures an audience in. “What’s the Point” from Kid Victory (Kander/Pierce) Zolfo’s song in the recently produced show at the Vineyard Theatre, in which he appeared, included a little soft shoe. “Keep Me Guessing” (Schalchlin) suggesting the virtues of unavailability, was followed by “He Was Too Good to Me” (Shirley Horn) and ”Manhattan” (Sara Bareilles)—“I’ll tiptoe away so you don’t have to say you heard me leave”—were subtle and riveting, revealing both men to be a strong vocal team. Their beautiful harmonies in “Faithless Love” (J.D. Souther) proved it even further. The Stephen Schwartz song “Dreamscape” clearly focused on the real underlying theme of this show: “Time to sail Reluctant Pilgrim/My fear is all I’ve got to lose/Life is nothing, Nothing but a dreamscape/and the dream is mine to choose.” Zolfo’s beautifully intimate rendition of “Make Someone Happy” (Jule Styne) was followed by “Farther Along” (Schalchlin/Zolfo) a witty lament with two men of quite different ages coming at regret from two very different angles—a great song performed with great panache by both.
The encore “Going It Alone” from Steve Schalchlin’s show The Last Session was a perfect closing. Clearly these two men of differing ages and experience, both inspire the best in each other. The evening was directed by Andy Gale.
There has to be more. This is an evening that must be repeated!
The Metropolitan Room 34 West 22nd Street. For reservations, call 212-206-0440. For more information or to order online, visit www.metropolitanroom.com.