By Myra Chanin
On Monday night, March 27, 2018, Ricky Ritzel stepped up to the microphone at B. B. Kings and gratefully and gracefully accepted the 2018 Manhattan Association of Cabaret Award for Best Recurring Cabaret Series for the THIRD YEAR IN A ROW!
Ricky Ritzel’s Broadway is a unique monthly verbal/musical assessment/interpretation plus juicy gossip of three Broadway musicals. One is usually an immortal classic, another is often a mortal flop that closed the morning after it opened, but most are plucked from the spectrum of also-rans which received mixed reviews, a phrase which award-winning Broadway playwright George S. Kaufman declared meant “good and rotten.” Ricky’s monthly jamborees pretty much amaze/delight the recurring/increasing queue of addicted fans who pack Don’t Tell Mama’s at 7 pm on the last Friday (or occasionally the last Thursday) of every month to hoot and holler at whatever their white-faced, platinum-coifed interlocutor has created with the aid of Jay Rogers and Aaron Morishita’s staging and choreography.
The Thursday evening March 29th episode began with Ricky modestly mentioning his latest MAC award, before noticing the less packed than usual showroom and wryly adding, “And look what it did for the box office!” Divide the blame for the sparse attendance and a cast of only seven (instead of the usual dozen plus) between Jehovah and Heavenly Father who, using different lunar calendars, ordained that 2018’s first Passover Seder and Good Friday would both fall on Ricky’s customary last Friday of month. @#$%^!&!!! Furthermore, both holiday food fests require pre-shopping/cooking by host/hostess and mighty pre-girding of loins by grown children returning home which limits the audience to orphans and atheists. Even in Spamalot they understood that you won’t succeed on Broadway if you don’t have any Jews. Ricky made the best of the cards he was dealt by featuring three musicals that were driven by depravity but written by Jews. Rodgers and Hart’s Pal Joey celebrated cougars and heels. Lerner and Loewe’s Gigi forgave charming pedophiles. Schwartz and Fields’ A Tree Grows in Brooklyn downgraded parental drunkenness. But casting morality aside, each one of Ricky’s players had the chance to strut their stuff extensively, so the evening was an artistic triumph! As always, the no-goodnicks got the most attention and reprised the most songs.
Aaron Morishita reincarnated Joey with a big double bang, expertly belting out a pair of Hart’s 1940 penultimate Broadway lyrics set to Rodgers jazzy pre-Hammerstein rhythms – “You Mustn’t Kick It Around,” and “Do It the Hard Way.” His irresistible smile and tap-dancing feet made him a shoo-in for a manipulative man defined by his lack of scruples. Bronx born and bred jazz singer Laurie Krauz and Boston Conservatory MFA Laura Pavles split equally excellent turns as Joey’s older but still proudly horizontally and nimble partner, beautifully warbling Rodgers and Hart’s sensuous “Bewitched” and lyrical “I Could Write A Book.” Comedy was represented by the incredible Sidney Myer as the intellectual stripper Gypsy Rose Lee letting “Zip,” reveal her innermost thoughts about Schopenhauer while removing inconsequential shards of her costume. The amazing Kristine Zbornik, a functional participant of 21st-century show business currently teaching master classes for performers, recalled in “That Terrific Rainbow,” while waving a multihued feather boa how Joey added color to her life. Eventually even raspy-voiced Ricky chimed in with Laura Pavles to describe their quirky “Den of Iniquity.”
Gigi’s highest point was Sally Darling and Bob Diamond’s spectacular rendition of “I Remember It Well.” She actually remembered it weller. They were a match made in heaven, funny and very, very touching and I look forward to hearing them sing many more clever and touching duets. Bob Diamond also presented a compelling “I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore,” and Aaron Morishita and Ricky (celebrated as the Lounge-O-Leers) joined voices in an amazingly convincing “Thank Heaven for Little Girls.” A Tree Grows in Brooklyn featured only three songs and two of them were simply spectacular. TV/Film/Theater/Cabaret veteran Barbara Malley’s adorable delivery of “He Had Refinement,” couldn’t have been more Irish immigrant upward mobile. Kristine Zbornik returned to demonstrate her emotional side in “Make the Man Love Me,” melting hearts, hopefully including his, with a wonderful ballad that’s not heard very often.
Don’t eat your heart out for not having seen this show. The best is still to come. On April 27that 7 pm Ricky Ritzel and Company will present the April 2018 Ricky Ritzel’s Broadway which will dissect The Bell Are Ringing, by the master of melody Jule Styne and book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, The Roar of the Greasepaint, with book, music, and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley and Sail Away, the last musical for which Noël Coward wrote both book and music.
Photos: Alvin Chanin
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