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BWW Review: Park It At Billy's Place For A Swelegant (And Rather Personal) Time


BWW Review: Park It At Billy's Place For A Swelegant (And Rather Personal) Time

There's a new boy in town and he's sounding great. No, Billy Stritch is not new to Manhattan or the cabaret/concert circuit - but he is new to the online streaming platform. Stritch has been doing weekly concerts with Linda Lavin on her Facebook page - after all, when the shelter in place order started, many artists took to the internet to entertain, to keep spirits up, to use their time creatively, and to make money through online donation. Week after week, Stritch and Lavin would meet on Wednesday afternoons at three pm and put on a heck of a great show (with themes!), Lavin suggesting, openly, that all tips go to Billy, insisting that her pension is enough for her. As the weeks turned into months, as isolation orders extended, as theaters and clubs determined they would stay closed for longer periods of time, artists have begun to settle into regular television programming, via the internet.

And Billy Stritch developed BILLY'S PLACE.

BWW Review: Park It At Billy's Place For A Swelegant (And Rather Personal) Time

Billy's Place is a one-hour variety show that takes place in Billy Stritch's home on Thursday nights at 8 pm EST. It's like the old days of The Julie Andrews Show or The Carol Burnett Show but without sketches. You could say that it is without guest stars but that's sort of not true, since part of the show is Billy calling shout outs to friends of his that are watching, and hearing him talk to the famous people he knows is fun, indeed it makes you feel like they are your friends, too. After all, in that moment you are one degree of separation from Sally Kirkland and Edward Hibbert. It's doubly fun when he gives a call out to someone you know in real life, like Mark Ramsay or Kassira Kalea, but friends you haven't seen in years. So here you have an hour of great music (no commercials, like the old days) being performed by a charming show host in an elegant setting, and the added bonus of requests. What?! That's right, during the week, viewers are welcome to reach out to Mr. Stritch via his social media (email or phone, if you happen to know Stritch personally) and let him know what song you would like to hear. It's cabaret from the comfort of your home - you don't have to put on your nice shoes, your Spanx, or do your hair, you can just be yourself, with the cocktail of your choice, listening to Billy Stritch make music.

And, oh, the music he makes.

There's no denying that Billy Stritch is simply one of the best in the business. The way he plays, the arrangements he creates, it's all just what they call "choice." But the way he sings... you could listen to him sing all night. It's only an hour show but when he's finished you will wish it were more. Maybe the virtual tip jar could get him to go longer, and it would be worth it because in the two episodes he has already done, there have been ballads, swing numbers, comedy, the works. In episode one Billy did an epic medley of songs from the musical 42nd Street (which he appeared in on Broadway) and the audience was delighted by the fact that when he got to the song "A Quarter to Nine" it was JUSTTHISCLOSE to being 8:45. In episode two, Stritch performed an "In The Still of The Night" that might just be the best version you've ever heard. His "My Romance" is divine, with those Billy Strich arrangements and changes that make him so memorable and enduring. Outstanding. There is an added bonus, if you are someone who knows Stritch's work, when he plays something you've been listening to for years and always loved, like when he played his "Night and Day/One Note Samba" by request... before realizing how difficult it is to play without practice... and after sipping on his Martini.

BWW Review: Park It At Billy's Place For A Swelegant (And Rather Personal) Time That's another thing - each week Billy drinks a specialty cocktail for the evening, describing the drink and telling the audience how to make it, encouraging them to make one (or any drink) at home. Seeing him like this, in his own home, with a humor as dry as his Martini, hearing him converse with his partner Doug off-camera, or refer to the puppies sleeping on the sofa and under the piano, it's a whole new Billy you never knew before! It's a charming Billy and a charming show filled with personal stories from his life and factoids about the music and the artists who made it, the kind of trivia that people will tune in for. When Billy plays on stage he has a band and an audience and sometimes a costar. Here, it's all him and you really get to know things about him and who he is. There are reminiscences about Liza Minnelli, followed by a famous arrangement he created for her - cause that's not exciting to hear. He speaks respectfully of friends like Margaret Whiting and Jack Wrangler before singing a rare song that Margaret sang - and suddenly you have a new favorite tune! Stritch performs a great mix of music you already know and songs you will enjoy getting to know, and if you know the song you can count on Billy to do something that will make it seem as new.

Now, let's talk about the virtual tip jar. It's an important topic of conversation because just about every artist performing in live streaming shows has one. They can't afford to be coy about it, and they have to mention it because it is their current livelihood. These gig workers have lost their ability to earn right now - all the clubs and venues are closed. These online shows are it for them. Billy mentions his virtual tip jar a few times throughout the show, making it clear it is not required, that people who have come to watch and listen, only, are welcome to be there; but that people who have the ability and the inclination to support him during the lockdown are welcome to do so. He doesn't pander and he doesn't shy away - he provides the information and gets back to the music. It's information that needs to be out there, and he puts it out there with grace and dignity.

Cheers may be the place where everybody knows your name, but Billy's is the place where the Maestro knows every song - and he will play those songs, all of them, in a manner that will make you smile and happy you tuned in. Both of Mr. Stritch's weekly gigs are worth checking out, worth watching, and worth coming back for.

But bring your own booze.

See BILLY'S PLACE at 8 pm EST every Thursday on the Billy Stritch Facebook page HERE

See Linda Lavin and Billy Stritch at 3 pm EST every Wednesday on the Linda Lavin Facebook page HERE

BWW Review: Park It At Billy's Place For A Swelegant (And Rather Personal) Time

BWW Review: Park It At Billy's Place For A Swelegant (And Rather Personal) Time

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