by Joe Regan Jr.
The second night, December 3 at Urban Stages of the wonderful Winter Rhythms 2015, was a thrilling and funny dramatic program entitled “Unconventional,” featuring the team of Marissa Mulder and Bill Zeffiro directed by producing director Peter Napolitano. A reprise of a show done on the Friday night of the Mabel Mercer Cabaret Convention at the Metropolitan Room, there were many revisions to make this program a Christmas themed show. There were also some very personal stories told about both of them in regard to themselves and their Christmas experiences.
The opening number was a rousing “Big Night Out,” by Zeffiro and Napolitano, sung by the two of them with Mulder dancing all over the stage in her golden gown. They explained how they met at a Holiday party and their reaction to each other was the same: “Wow!” The Bobby Darin-Johnny Mercer “Two of a Kind” cemented that relationship and they have worked together ever since.
They started working on a Jerome Kern show. They asked Steve Ross for some input and he sent them hundreds of Kern songs. Singing the verse, Mulder did a moving version of “The Way You Look Tonight.” She also talked about their Jimmy Van Heusen show. She found out that Van Heusen was from her home town relating he was a pilot and worked at Lockheed during WWII. At the end of the work day, he would go to Paramount and write songs for Bing Crosby. Of course, Marissa sang “Come Fly With Me.”
Zeffiro explained how he found a real rarity on a Nancy Sinatra Live In London album, a duet with her father Frank. No, it wasn’t “Something Stupid” but a crazy drug referenced song entitled “Life is a Trippy Thing” with all kinds of drug references and a repeated “ring a ding ding!
Discussing Christmas, Marissa gave a heart breaking story about her grandfather who loved music. His mother was an alcoholic and he would travel to relatives by train to get stockings full of toys. He continued that tradition for Marissa and her siblings, stuffing their stockings each Christmas. In honor of him, Marissa did a wonderful mix of “Moon River” and “It’s Only a Paper Moon.”
Marissa confessed that when a boyfriend dumped her, Zeffiro accepted her in the middle of the night and held her for 20 minutes to console her. They confessed their love for Karen Carpenter and, with Mulder sitting on the piano bench, both movingly sang her big hit, “I Won’t Last A Day Without You.”
They discussed what their future show will be, an act devoted to the music in Woody Allen movies! Mulder talked about her admiration for Diane Keaton and did a tender “Seems Like Old Times” from Annie Hall. Zeffiro loved Broadway Danny Rose and wildly sang “Agita” from that movie.
Their favorite Woody Allen movie is “Manhattan” because it is full of wonderful Manhattan street scenes and has nothing but Gershwin melodies. Because of Zeffiro’s friendship with Kay Swift, he related that Gershwin was always looking for the sadness underneath the melodies. With Zeffiro punctuating their selections with “Rhapsody In Blue,” Gershwin selections included “Someone To Watch Over Me,” a sexy “Do Do Do,” “’S Wonderful,” “Embraceable You.”
The first encore was “Me and My Shadow” and then, as a special treat for his nieces in the audience, Zeffiro did their favorite funny Christmas song he wrote.
Winter Rhythms 2015 is a benefit for Urban Stages Outreach which brings performers to schools, hospitals, and children’s groups and continues for the next two weeks. Go to www.urbanstages.org and use ticket code WR20 for a discount to see any of the future shows for only $20.00
Photos: Maryann Lopinto