Ricky Ritzel on Broadway Returns!




by Myra Chanin

The latest Ricky Ritzel on Broadway returns to Don’t Tell Mama on November 19th.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what’s a video worth? And not an ordinary video but one that replays life’s unexpectedly delicious moments? And who, when and where did these moments take place? At Don’t Tell Mama’s, during Ricky Ritzel and Company’s October show, where he presented summations and songs from two Broadway hits, Gypsy and Damn Yankees, two previously unannounced near misses from the 1920s, and 1964’s Ben Franklin in Paris which failed despite Robert Preston starring and two Jerry Herman songs added to the score. Unfortunately video clips of Ricky’s October show have proven harder to acquire than Donald Trump’s specific strategy for transporting the undocumenteds to a destination near Mexico’s southern border from which repatriated illegals never again make their way north to the Rio Grande. So you’ll have to make do with 650 words.

Wonder who Ricky Ritzel is, and why he always amazes me? Ricky’s a musical phenom; he’s Cabaret’s Energizer Bunny, who instead of marching in endless circles beating his own drum, beats drums for other niche-nested deserving performers who haven’t starred on Broadway yet, though only through the vagaries of fate rather than any dearth of talent. Ritzel’s repertorians include the inimitable “Everybody Loves” Sidney Myer, Lenny “Mega” Watts, Jay Rogers, Aaron Morishita, Jon Satrom, Christina Aranda, Tommy J. Dose, Alison Nusbaum, Tara Moran, Sean Bernardi, KJ Morton and Michelle Dowdy.

Ricky’s first surprise? The entire overture of Gypsy sung as a killer-diller, a cappella, doobie-doo improvisation by Ricky, Jay Rogers and Aaron Morishita, which made the entire audience light up with joy.

Surprise Number Two was the appearance of the fabulous Karen Mason—the original Tanya in Mamma Mia and an ultra-qualified Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard— who belted out “Some People” and “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” with enough emotion and verve to make me want to fund a revival of Gypsy so Karen could play the Mama she’d been born to sing in the place where she’d been born to sing it. The priceless finishing Gypsy touch were three unusual strippers, Aaron Morishita, Jay Rodgers and Sidney Myer, displaying their attention-getters in “You Gotta Have A Gimmick.” And how!

Surprise Number Three was Sharon McKnight’s unexpected star turn as Sophie Tucker. Sharon is highly regarded for her one-woman Sophie Tucker cabaret shows. She sang two perpetual Tucker hits from the 1920s: “Some of These Days,” from High Kickers; and, “Most Gentlemen Don’t Like to Talk About Love,” from Cole Porter’s Leave It To Me. The latter musical also introduced another great Broadway leading lady, Mary Martin, chirruping “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” which was crooned here with equally sexy innocence by Christina Aranda.

Ricky’s finale incorporated several hits from Damn Yankees: a quartet consisting of Jay Rogers, Jon Satrom, Aaron Morishita and Tommy J. Dose harmonizing “You Gotta Have Heart”; Sidney Myer archly warbling “A Little Brains, A Little Talent”; Tara Morton’s devilish, “Whatever Lola Wants”; and a really lush and lovely “Near To You,” by Christiana Aranda.

Ricky Ritzel’s Broadway, which has been running monthly since summer, returns to Don’t Tell Mama for its fifth presentation on Thursday Night, November 19th a 7 pm. He and his usual cast members and newcomers Bob Diamond and Barbara Malley will be singing songs from and dishing out dirt about The Grass Harp, Jesus Christ Superstar, and 70 Girls 70. The series is fashioned after Sylvia Fine (Mrs. Danny) Kaye’s “Musical Comedy Tonight,” a popular PBS series from the 1970s. Ritzel, a widely admired performer and denizen of New York piano bars and the cabaret world, delivers wry commentary in addition to accompanying the singers.

For a delightful hour and a half, don’t miss Ricky Ritzel’s Broadway #5. I certainly plan to be there, as well as at every future monthly edition.


Ricky Ritzel’s Broadway #5. November 19, 2015, 7 PM at Don’t Tell Mama, 343 West 46th St (between Eighth and Ninth Avenues). www.donttellmamanyc.com


Photos by Maryann Lopinto