By: Jerry Osterbergg
In the words of Noel Coward: “I went to a marvelous party!” On the evening of April 25th, 2014, in the Village of Port Washington, New York, more than a dozen of Ervin Drake’s good friends, many of whom happen to be singers, came together to celebrate the birthday of this extraordinarily talented man. Produced by Sandi Durell and presented at The Gold Coast Arts Center and Landmark on Main Street to a packed auditorium, the show featured many of the best cabaret and Broadway performers in the music business.
Hosted by the one and only Heartbreak Kid, Charles Grodin, one after another great singer performed an Ervin Drake song, some of them well known, others not. Grodin, known for his wry sense of humor, utilized it fully in introducing each of them. Eric Yves Garcia opened with “A Room Without Windows” from Ervin’s Broadway hit What Makes Sammy Run? a 1964 outing with Robert Alda, Sally Ann Howes, and Steve Lawrence. Fresh from her MAC and Bistro Awards wins, Anita Gillette sang “Kiss Me No Kisses,” “A Tender Spot,” and “The Friendliest Thing,” all from What Makes Sammy Run? Another tune from Broadway was “Just for Today,” written by Ervin for Her First Roman. It starred Richard Kiley and Leslie Uggams, and performed here by Steve Ross.
Miss Uggams sang one of Ervin’s typically stellar creations, “Good Morning Heartache,” accompanied by Don Rebic, Stacy Sullivan added “In the Afternoon,” T. Oliver Reid did both “Louisville Lodge Meeting” and “Father of Girls,” and Sidney Myer got to lead the audience in “I Wuv a Wabbit.” Jeff Harnar sang “One God,” KT Sullivan performed “Tico-Tico,” Joe Sirola sang and swayed to “Quando, Quando, Quando,” and “Now That I Have Everything” was presented by John Gabriel. Carole J. Bufford did “You’re Breaking in a New Heart,” Eric Yves Garcia returned with “Made for Each Other,” Christine Lavin sang “I’m a Card-Carrying, Bleeding Heart Liberal,” and Jon Weber, who accompanied most of the vocalists, presented “You Can In Yucatan.”
The final part of the exceptional entertainment was represented by Ervin Drake’s most successful songs: “Al Di La,” “It Was a Very Good Year,” and “I Believe,” the first two performed by Sal Viviano, the last by Dee Dee Bridgewater. Along with Ervin and Edith Drake, the entire cast returned for the encore “I Believe,” with the audience contributing enthusiastic backup.
Due to the artistry and genius of Ervin Drake we’ve all enjoyed so many years of marvelous music. Having reached the milestone of ninety-five, it seems appropriate that he’s entitled to sum up progress to date in his own words: ‘And now I think of my life as vintage wine from fine old kegs. From the brim to the dregs and it poured sweet and clear, it was a very good year.’
Video: Russ Weatherford
Photos: Maryann Lopinto