By Sandi Durell
Opening night on December 12 was a celebratory tribute to The Maestro and His Music – Barry Levitt, who died unexpectedly on September 21, 2017 leaving many broken hearts and tearful eyes. He was a musical director-pianist who sounded like a symphony.
The heart-filled evening brought together many of cabaret’s favorites who were long time friends, students, and performing artists who had worked with Barry both recently and many years prior.
Produced and hosted by Stephen Hanks, performers lined the stage with backstories and song beginning with Warren Schein who met Barry many years ago in the Catskills singing a parody (by Niki Seed and Schein) detailing the “Catskills Memory.” Ann Dawson also knew Barry from that same genre and offered up a swingin’ “Some of These Days” wearing another memory icon’s jacket: that of Dana Lorge.
When Barry was working with Margaret Whiting, he met Jack Wrangler who had him play “Devil in Miss Jones” for a porn movie, here sung by Kati Neiheisel. Sunny Leigh, one of Barry’s writing partners, offered up their song “So Happy.”
Lovely Erin Cronican gave pause to Richard Eisenberg’s “Table Set for Two;” and Richard continued with “All Good Things Must Come to An End.” Young Charlie Romo, quickly making a name for himself, sang “The Curtain Falls” (Sol Weinstein).
The last person who worked with Barry rehearsing her show about to begin at the Laurie Beechman Theatre when he collapsed . . . golden voiced Dawn Derow (My Ship – Songs From 1941), offered up a sad and beautiful moment with “Skylark.”
Gutsy and vibrant singer Deb Berman had many wants in Jerome Kern’s “Nobody Else But Me;” and Valerie DiLorenzo had Barry “Forever On My Mind” (Richard Addrisi).
It’s been many years since Peter Napolitano (director of Winter Rhythms/Artistic Director Urban Stages) and Barry Levitt came together as a songwriting team to write specialty material for the performers whom they worked with like Helena Grenot – “Damn’d If I Know;” Andrea Bell Wolff “Prisoner of Love;” Deb Berman/Helena Grenot together on “All In Good Time.” Trezana Beverley – “The Story is My Song,” a song that she sang last year at Urban Stages in her tribute show to Mabel Mercer entitled Mabel Madness (Tuffus Zimbabwe on piano).
Working as a team, Napolitano and Levitt were in the throes of writing a new musical entitled That Way. Three songs were offered by Brian Charles Rooney and Janice Hall – a story of a mother praying to God about her son who is gay and eventually finding enlightenment and resolution. Sue Matsuki sang “Sometimes I Wonder,” which has been added to the score of That Way.
Knowing Barry myself for many years, and working with him as a musical director for various revues I’ve produced (Timeless Divas!, Broadway Live! Hollywood Live!), it was no surprise hearing his favorite tune sung by the cast “Pennies From Heaven” to close the uplifting, soul filling evening tribute.
Various pianists for the evening included John DiPinto, Mark Janas, Gregory Toroian. Boots Maleson was on bass and Howie Gordon on drums.
Photos: Maryann Lopinto
Urban Stages, 259 West 30th Street, NYC – Winter Rhythms continues through December 23 featuring cabaret, musical theater, jazz and more to benefit Arts and Education
Frances Hill – Artistic Director