Stacey Ward MacAdams has A LOT of friends in New York, a number of whom are entertainers. On Wednesday night, as many as could fit gathered at The Metropolitan Room for an evening of piano, story, song and what Stacy calls “the Tabernacle Choir,” which turns out to be sing-along.
MacAdams’ sat down at the piano with a wave and a grin. His cheerful baritone rode a robust oompa accompaniment of The Tennessee Waltz (Redd Stewart/Pee Wee King). And the room burst into song! I felt like an extra in a Hollywood musical. Grins erupted all over the room. There were enough professionals so the rest of us were nicely drowned out but having a heck of a time. This unexpected opening choice was followed by I Just Come From the Fountain, an American gospel. Suddenly a strong sure contralto (?) voice sailed over our heads from the back as Jeanne Ommerle “one of my nearest and dearest” joined her friend. Communal delight was palpable. (Later, Ommerle sang a rendition of Sigmund Romberg’s One Kiss that would put Jeanette McDonald to shame.)
Much of the year, our host performs on cruise ships. “Little ditties from the countries I visit” included numbers in Norwegian, Maltese, German, French, and Italian. After each short offering from MacAdams, a “friend” would take part. Maria Federova stood in the audience to sing a brief, lovely rendition of Wein, Wein. We swayed. Gay Marshall took the stage for Les Feuilles Mortes (The Falling Leaves- Jacques Prevert) and a wonderfully evocative alto La Vie En Rose (Piaf/David/Louigy) with which some of the audience sang along in French. Marshall slid between keys with craft and feeling. There’s appealing grit to her sustained phrases. I Love Paris (Cole Porter) was a number for “the Tabernacle Choir, ” namely, us. Exhilarating.
MacAdams described his time in Italy, “taking Italian between eating pasta and pastry,” with such ease and warmth, we were lulled into expecting a tavern song. He’s so personable, the aura of stage performance evaporates. There’s no fourth wall when he entertains. Then, the room went dark. A spotlight came up on Lisa Riegel (standing in the audience) who sang O, Mio Babbino Caro from Puccini’s Gianni Schichi. With her blue stole, rapt expression and pure soprano, it was as if watching a Renaissance painting come alive. Shivers.
The evening was by no means all classics. Apparently, MacAdams played Motel the tailor in a road company of Fiddler on the Roof (Sheldon Harnick). Fellow cast members were introduced. An ebullient version of Miracle of Miracles followed. We heard Irving Berlin from Maxine Gordon in Upper West Side comic mode; Nifty Cole Porter from Coleen McHugh—all brass and character-nominated for a MAC Award—and Noel Coward from Helena Grenot (Motel’s stage wife) and McAdams. Coward’s A Bar on the Piccola Marina was a particular hit. Surprisingly, the seemingly knowledgeable audience seemed not to be familiar with the song. Or, perhaps, it was McAdams pixyish enactment eliciting surprised laughter. His lengthy recitation of Maude, You’re Rotten to the Core (Beatrice Lillie’s sister, Muriel) was, if appropriate in content, an unfortunate choice, a lull.
A highlight of the show was the appearance by Steve Ross, aptly introduced as “the crown prince of cabaret,” who delivered the whole of Cole Porter’s Can Can—every gloriously clever, perfectly inflected, crisply enunciated verse, to appreciative cheers. Really, you’d think his fingers were dancing on the keys. It was joyous and masterful.
McAdams performed What’ll I Do (Irving Berlin) in almost a stage whisper. It was top grade, unhomogenized schmaltz as was Noel Coward’s I’ll See You Again—from the Tabernacle Choir.
An Evening with Stacy Ward MacAdams and Friends is like being invited to a party in someone’s home. It’s impossible not to be swept up in festive fellowship. Sincerity and affection are so prevalent, allowances are made for occasional missed keys. The artist treats the piano like a pal. They play together, each with his own personality, in symbiotic fashion. I swear the instrument has its own voice. It’s not accompaniment. The two converse. His connection with the audience is immediate and strong. We are included. An intimacy is established.
Never having seen him perform before, I have no idea whether being all over the place is a MacAdams signature. The surprise and variety of a musical menu that would never have worked under other circumstances, created, an experience filled with interest and fun. His baritone is amiable and effective, but honestly, not the point.
Stacy MacAdams warm, breezy showmanship and international urbanity creates an evening whose bubbles will tickle your nose.