Sin Twisters: The Next Frontier – Penny Fuller and Anita Gillette

SinTwisters is a spoonerism: a transposition of usually initial sounds of two or more words. As the close friends were often mistaken for one another in early professional days, they began to think of themselves as twin sisters. Duet shows originated in 2013 with the title.

Arriving in New York fresh faced and full of ambition, Penny was a trained actress who also wanted to sing, Anita a trained singer who aspired to act. Both began as chorines but achieved goals across stage and screen. Sharing the story of crossover careers with humor, warmth, highjinks, and supportively received loose ends, these artists know where the bodies are hidden but are too much ladies to tell. (We do learn who dated or was chased around a desk by notables.) Personally directed quotes from Yip Harburg and Harold Arlen are priceless.

A jaunty “Once in a Lifetime” (Jule Styne/Betty Comden and Adolph Green) is followed by Quincy Jones/ Jeremy Lubbock/Ron Pemberton’s “Sistah”: My sister/We sho’ ain’t got a whole lot of time (Anita pats her chin) So shake your shimmy/Sister…(They do.) The theme tonight is not just friendship but a passionate carpe diem. “Time is moving so fast, so please don’t ever waste a second,” Anita pleads. Writer/director Barry Kleinbort has wryly written and staged the show as jealous competition, yet deftly allowing each artist to sound like herself. The way these friends beam with pride at one another’s solos, is palpable.

Anita Gillette

Both performers were in productions of 1940’s Pal Joey. Anita wanted to play Vera Simpson, but was cast as “that drip” Linda. We hear bright renditions of “You Mustn’t Kick It Around” and “Plant You Now, Dig You Later.” Penny’s gasp/sigh-besotted “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” conjures Vera. “Like a daisy…” she sings looking surprised. “Thank God, (her arm extends, fingers splay as if flexing) I can be oversexed again,” she sings. It’s easy to imagine her in the role.

“We were lucky to be coming up at the same time. That’s when all the great songwriters were still writing tunes,” Anita notes. “Melodies,” their MD Paul Greenwood interjects smiling. Respect where respect is due. Not only a crafter of superb arrangements and the subtlest of musicians, Greenwood contributes fine vocals and shepherds the evening with a polished, affectionate hand.

 Anita’s “Once Upon a Time” is from Charles Strouse/Lee Adams’ All American in which she first tread the boards. The song is poignant, filled with longing. A lilting vibrato emerges. Penny looks as if she’s channeling her friend. (Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart) The multi-talented Kleinbort authored “One More Spring” from a musical piece commissioned and now performed by Penny. Interpretation is fine grained, the song lovely.

Playful one upmanship of musical icons includes Anita’s mention of Irving Berlin who was a fan of the young performer. In later life, Berlin’s secretary would ask Anita to telephone when the boss needed cheering up. Penny answers an onstage phone with I got a message from down below…lyrics to Berlin’s “Pack Up Your Sins and Go to The Devil”.  (The show’s single awkward transition.) Anita comes in. The two sing lively counterpoint without dropping a stitch.

Penny Fuller

In a workshop of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Gold (later called Bounce, then Road Show), Anita played mother to the Mizner brothers. “Isn’t He Something” is just beautiful as offered by the artist famous for her mother roles. According to Rita Gardner “A workshop is when you’re sent to jail for a crime you’re never gonna commit.” Sure enough, someone else was cast for the Public Theater production.

Penny counters with the musical Kelly (Eddie Lawrence/ Moose Charlip) which centered on a busboy who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge and survived. It opened and closed the same night 1965 and can undoubtedly be found on the wall at Joe Allen’s. One song, she tells us, survived. Interpretation of “I’ll Never Go There Anymore” is moving.

A medley from John Kander/Fred Ebb’s Cabaret in which both appeared gives the artists opportunity to showcase more range, even including brief imitation of Lotte Lenya. They’re having a helluva time and it’s infectious. To end? “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries” (Ray Henderson/Buddy DeSylva/Lew Brown). Positive outlook against the odds.

Sin Twisters: The Next Frontier– Penny Fuller and Anita Gillette
Barry Kleinbort -Director
Paul Greenwood – Musical Director/Piano/Vocals
Tom Hubbard – Bass

April 17, 2023
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About Alix Cohen (1580 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of ten New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, TheaterLife, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.