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by: Paulanne Simmons


The Metropolitan Room is certainly an intimate cabaret venue, but Denise Spann-Morgan, lead singer of the “Marvelous” Marvelettes, positively turned the place into her own living room. In fact, on July 16, the first night of her residency at the Metropolitan Room, it seemed she knew just about everyone there. But you didn’t have to be a friend or relative to have a great time.

With Annette Bland McCoy and LaRita Gaskin singing backup, and occasionally lead, the “Marvelous” Marvelettes performed some of the great soul hits of the 50s and 60s, such as Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me” and “Try a Little Tenderness,” an old release most famously covered by Otis Redding.

The group also sang many of the songs that made the original Marvelettes the very first number one girl group: “Please Mr. Postman,” “Beechwood 45789,” and Smokey Robinson’s “The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game” and “Don’t Mess With Bill”

Between the songs, Spann-Morgan’s great sense of humor contributed hugely to the evening. She remembered growing up in East New York and the parties where she would dance through the night, or until her mother came looking for her, at which time the DJ would call out her name, “like I was the next song.”

She also complained plenty about the hazards of aging. Your body goes. Your mind goes. Everyone laughed. but no one believed this diva could ever really age.

July 16 was Spann-Morgan’s birthday. So the audience got to show its appreciation by serenading her, after which birthday cake was enjoyed by all.

But there was a special surprise for this reviewer after the show was over. Turns out we both lived only a few blocks from each other while growing up in East New York, and we both went to the same school (probably at the same time). When Denise said she still remembered the school song, who could resist?

Singing “Of Thee I Sing, Gershwin” with the magnificent Denise Spann-Morgan will forever remain one of the great moments of my life.


Photos: Russ Weatherford

Metropolitan Room,  34 W 22nd St, http://metropolitanroom.com.