by: Myra Chanin
About 17 seconds after Tony Danza sang the first bars of his opening number, As Long as I’m Singing, at the Café Carlyle on Tuesday night, I turned into a Nonna – an Italian Grandmother. I wanted to run home to my third floor walk-up on Mulberry Street in Little Italy, parmagian some veal, cacciatore a chicken, roast a leg of lamb while simmering a small giant batch of my secret ingredient meatballs in a ditto vat of gravy just in case Tony should be in the neighborhood, ring my bell and want a little something to eat.
Tony Danza is a sight for sore eyes. Talk about sartorial perfection. He’s impeccably dressed with his trim, slim body swathed in a beautifully cut and tailored suit! Mamma Mia! He’s manly in the best, non-threatening, universally appealing way to male, females, and any in the encompassing gamut of GLBT.
Tony’s joy at being on stage at the Café Carlyle for the first time – I’m sure it won’t be the last – is totally infectious. His beaming smile was immediately returned by everyone in the audience. He’s not only adorable, engaging, charming, he can sing and tells terrific stories. A real down-to-earth guy with no pretentions and no BS, he gives his all, all the time and is having a great time doing it. To give you a clue about how committed he is to projects he undertakes, earlier this season he was starring in Honeymoon in Vegas, not only 8 times a week at the Nederlander Theater on 41st St, but also at the half-priced TKTS booth line on 47th Street. The show was not selling tickets, despite a uncharacteristically great review in the New York Times by Ben Brantley — who normally hates anything entertaining — describing Tony’s performance as “a smooth-as-Ultrasuede star turn,” Tony did his best to remedy the ticket sales problem by personally urging theatergoers in line to bet on Vegas. I’m sure many did … and left feeling like winners.
His comfort level singing, talking, fooling around and (gasp!) even tap-dancing on stage reminds me of old timers like Sinatra. Like Sinatra, Danza picks great songs to sing. He mixes great standards along with stories about his friends who wrote them, with lesser known and even a completely unknown but still affecting numbers. What do all these songs have in common? Really good lyrics which Danza delivers with an actor’s skill.
Carolyn Leigh’s How Little We Know is swung with exactly the right beat. Tony seductively sexy on That’s All and Ervin Drake’s masterpiece, It Was a Very Good Year. Of course, the trio of songs from Honeymoon in Vegas made me wonder what awful curse stopped that show from being the smash hit Andrew Bergman and Jason Robert Brown deserved. Tony also included a poignant tune written by a friend, Artie Butler, called I Don’t Remember Ever Growing Up and closed with a pleased as punch, If They Could See me Now!
The musical director of the accomplished quartet backing Tony up is the exemplary pianist/arranger John Oddo. Where did you hear his name before? Only as the music director for Rosemary Clooney (for 18 years) as well as Tony Bennett, Michael Feinstein, Ray Charles, John Pizzarelli and Diane Schuur. Oddo’s arrangements are varying degrees of upbeat, unqualifiedly excellent and have you taping your toes non-stop.
Tony Danza’s Standards and Stories at the Café Carlyle is a terrific show by a wonderful performer who’s have a great time making sure you have one as well.
Tony Danza continues thru June 27th, 35 East 76 St. (at Madison Ave.) NYC 212 744-1600 www.thecarlyle.com
*Photos: Michael Wilhoite