Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Jason Robert Brown

Tony Danza: Standards and Stories – Charms


Tony Danza’s return to Feinstein’s/54Below is not based solely on popular recognition. The beloved sitcom star, with only two musicals under his belt, seems at home on a cabaret stage. Danza is personable and funny; his Brooklyn-accented vocals now more nuanced than during 2015’s Honeymoon in Vegas. Style reflects old school entertainment; he swings, scats, taps, tells a few (good) jokes and reminisces never unbuttoning a well cut jacket. (Ten minutes on his family could be successfully cut.)

tony open

Brief numbers swing in with easy phrasing. Hands tell the story as much as lyrics. They open wide, fist, and point; fingers splay, thumbs go up, palms turn down. Danza never stops moving. He bounces, walks in place, shifts his shoulders, occasionally kicks (low). Energy translates as the artist’s excitement at being there. It’s appealing.

A story about his mother’s adoration of Frank Sinatra leads into Ervin Drake’s “It Was a Very Good Year.” Perched on a stool, the actor inhabits the song as if it were a scene. Even pauses are focused. We’re so with him that an abrupt mood change jars. (Give it a minute.) “Angel Eyes” (Earl Brent/Matt Dennis) begins with only MD/Arranger John Oddo’s dark, cool piano. Danza puts a hand in his pocket, strolling across the stage with moody gravitas. The innate roughness of his voice enhances.


“John Updike said people who don’t live in New York are just kidding.” Repartee about the city to which Danza has returned is observant and wry. A breezy version of Ralph Freed/Burton Lane’s “How About You?” follows. Sincerity reigns. “The House I Live In –That’s America to Me” (Lewis Allen/Earl Robertson), apparently added tonight, perhaps in response to current politics, is as straight from the hip as it comes and exudes grace. “I Don’t Remember Growing Up” by his friend Artie Butler radiates warmth.

Three songs from Honeymoon in Vegas (Jason Robert Brown) are included. As sweet gangster Tommy Korman, Danza performed two of these in the show. Tonight, he exuberantly offers “I Love Betsy” which was sung by Jack Singer, the congenitally ambivalent other half of the couple concerned. (Betsy is squired away by Tommy in reaction to Jack’s unwillingness to commit.) The number is infectiously happy, aided and abetted by vocal back-up by the band. Danza’s completely believable. He sparks.

Tony 3

Danza accompanies himself on ukulele for the third of these numbers.  He then enthusiastically demonstrates styles one can elevate with the diminutive instrument, from a lilting “Nevertheless I’m in Love With You” (Harry Ruby/Bert Kalmar) through a charming 1920s turn to the ersatz pop “Love Potion Number 9” (Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller).

The American Songbook is clearly valued by this performer. “Every song we used to listen to growing up was about love,” he muses, “What are these kids gonna hum when they get older?” His approach respects and celebrates tradition. An encore of “Love Is Here to Stay” (Ira and George Gershwin) that “sorta says what we feel about the audience and hopefully how you feel about us” speaks volumes.

Tony Danza captivates.

Dave Shoup-Guitar, John Arbo-Bass, Ed Caccavale- Drums

Photos by Maryann Lopinto

Tony Danza: Standards and Stories
Feinstein’s 54/Below
254 West 54 Street
March 17, 18, 31; April 1

Never Go Solo – Kelli O’Hara Sparkles


“Every song I will sing tonight will be about someone who helped me get here. Every note and every word will be shared in the spirit of gratitude…” leading lady Kelli O’Hara tells us, explaining her show title. The hall is packed to the rafters for the musical theater actress’s solo Carnegie debut. (This year also saw her Metropolitan Opera Debut.) In another era, enthusiastic fans would carry her on their shoulders.

Oklahoma born O’Hara is eminently likeable. When that glorious soprano soars from her fresh, pretty, Mid-Western face and petite figure, audiences feel connected. She seems like one of us, albeit with extraordinary vocal abilities. Patter is warm and sincere. The artist tells us about her start in the business and family members. Each musical selection has context.

Kelli O'Hara

Kelli O’Hara

To her mom, the dreamer, who listened to Frank Sinatra, she dedicates Vincent Youmans’ “Without a Song.” It’s an unusual arrangement, somewhat western, though vocally balladic. To her father, who taught her how to work, O’Hara dedicates “To Build a Home” which swells and swirls in heartfelt interpretation. (Jason Robert Brown from The Bridges of Madison County in which she costarred): …And blade of grass by blade of grass/And ear of corn by ear of corn/And bale of Hay by day by day/They build themselves a home…

“The Light in the Piazza” is imbued with the innocent character’s immense sense of wonder. (From the show of the same name by Adam Guettel in which she played Clara, “a role that changed my life.”) Apparently she and Victoria Clark sang the entire score to an ailing Betty Comden in her apartment, the kind of thing, O’Hara says, that can make the work wonderful.

Two of what the artist calls her “man songs,” i.e. numbers ordinarily performed by men, are “Finishing the Hat” which she comments is “no longer just a man’s problem” (Stephen Sondheim from Sunday in the Park with George) and “This Nearly Was Mine” (Rodgers and Hammerstein from South Pacific in which she played Nellie Forbush.)

The first arrives with new mindset in place. An overtaxed woman tries against odds to complete what she started in the face of endless demands. The understated version (with wonderful violin), eschews its usual pointillist arrangement in favor of quiet intensity. The second number, buoyed on piano eddies (until the bridge) begins swaying slightly with regret, then erupts into an uncontainable waltz.

 When O’Hara got to New York 18 years ago, she had a temp job in the box office of Café Carlyle. Barbara Cook was playing. Her first performance on a Carnegie Hall stage was a Barbara Cook concert. “In this life you look for people who set examples…” Much to collective surprise, Ms. Cook is then wheeled out in her chair to receive admiration and affectionate thanks. O’Hara sits on the floor next to the icon, hot pink dress billowing around her.

Kelli O'Hara

Kristin Chenoweth, Kelli O’Hara

We’re also introduced to fellow Oklahoman, Kristin Chenoweth who, instead of feeling competitive, got O’Hara her first agent and voice teachers here. They sing – what else – a rousing “Oklahoma!” Both performers bounce, taking turns holding “that” note while the other bounds on. The audience spontaneously claps time. What is it in the water of Oklahoma…?

Selections for her attending children include a tandem “Smile” (Charles Chaplin) and George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” which don’t quite work together (for her son, an avid Beatles fan) and, by O’Hara herself, the charming “She Sings” written for  her daughter Charlotte.

O’Hara tells us she couldn’t manage juggling work and family without appreciable help. Her husband, Greg Naughton, joins for one of his compositions “about not getting too crazy busy to share your world.” The country number arrives in easy harmony, fiddle-sounding violin and two-step rhythm. With bandmates Rich Price and Brian Chartrand, the four then perform his “Dance With Me,” a country tune with a sweet, comfy sound but alas, mostly unintelligible lyrics.” (The band is Sweet Remains.)

Brian  Chartrand, James Naughton, Kelli O’Hara, Greg Naughton, Rich Price

Taking the atmosphere a step further, adding O’Hara’s father-in-law, actor James Naughton, the group sings an a capella “Lonesome Road” (James Taylor) with only an overhead microphone. A pristine rendition, it sounds like a hymn.

One of the unquestionable highpoints of the evening is the story/song “They Don’t Let You In The Opera (If You’re A Country Star)” by MD/Pianist Dan Lipton and David Rossmer: Now, I was born down in Georgia/But Georgia wasn’t good enough for me/I’d sing country songs for them, but/My heart sang La Bohème and it/Didn’t help we moved to Tennessee/Nashville’s not the place you sing/High C…Wearing a cowboy hat, delivering every lyric with just the right yee-haw inflection, segueing into serious opera, O’Hara shows us singing and acting chops with infectious panache.

There were two encores.

Photos by Chris Lee
Opening: Second Encore: “I’ll Get By (With a Little Help from My Friends)”
John Lennon/Paul McCartney

Kelli O’Hara- Never Go Solo
Dan Lipton- MD/Piano
The Stern Auditorium Carnegie Hall
October 29, 2016