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Review: Put a Bow On BILLY STRITCH BIG BIRDLAND BIRTHDAY BASH! - A Swell, Shiny Gift For All To Enjoy

It's a great day when an artist like Billy Stritch is born, and a great show, too.

Review: Put a Bow On BILLY STRITCH BIG BIRDLAND BIRTHDAY BASH! - A Swell, Shiny Gift For All To Enjoy

There are times in life when a person celebrating a birthday becomes the giver of gifts, rather than the beneficiary of others' generosity. They might give a dinner, perhaps treat their friends to a night out, possibly even send the guests home with a gift bag - the point is about the celebration of life, and not about the receiving of presents. In the case of Billy Stritch's upcoming sixtieth birthday, the gift-giving is all in the hands of the prolific Maestro, and the gift is all of him.

Review: Put a Bow On BILLY STRITCH BIG BIRDLAND BIRTHDAY BASH! - A Swell, Shiny Gift For All To Enjoy Last night, Mr. Stritch opened a run of shows at the Birdland Theater appropriately titled BIG BIRDLAND BIRTHDAY BASH! and even though the date of his birthday won't materialize until Saturday, the people are ready to party. It was a practically full house in the basement of Birdland as Mr. Stritch and his trio took to the stage for an extremely generous ninety minutes of first-rate, world-class, top-shelf entertainment. Speaking personally, I could easily put my hand over my heart and declare Bill Stritch to be my favorite male entertainer working in cabaret. He plays the piano in ways that make you roll your eyes into the back of your head (the way you do when eating something almost unbearably sumptuous), he sings with remarkable storytelling nuance and unfathomable vocal technique (to say nothing of the quality of the voice itself, one of the silkiest, sexiest sounds ever raised in the making of music), and then, just when you think you can't stand another moment of perfection in entertainment, he is one hell of an orator - charming, informative, unrehearsed without prattle, confident but not cocky, and (in modern-day vernacular) the man is funny AF. From start to finish, Stritch provides an immaculate, unblemished evening of entertainment, quite devoid of a single moment that one could point at and offer critique.

So there will be no critique.

Review: Put a Bow On BILLY STRITCH BIG BIRDLAND BIRTHDAY BASH! - A Swell, Shiny Gift For All To Enjoy Let us, instead, discuss what people will get if they are lucky enough (smart enough) to buy tickets to one of the remaining performances of the Big Birdland Birthday Bash. Mr. Stritch spends his ninety minutes on stage performing a wide range of music from varying decades in the history of music, but the era in which the songs were composed matters not because each offering has been crafted in that inimitable Billy Stritch style, with exciting new arrangements of Sondheim classics, thrilling treatments involving Arlen, Mercer, and the Gershwins, and famous or not-so-famous presentations from Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh - and it really isn't a Billy Stritch show without some Cy Coleman. With each new performance, Billy wows the crowd with his artistic prowess and his pithy wit, but it's not all music and laughs because there are lovely moments of jovial reflection as the birthday boy (birthday man) speaks from the heart about the power of friendship, about his journey through life, and the experience of hitting that milestone birthday in two days' time. Conversationally speaking, he put not one foot wrong throughout the program. Musically, it is nearly impossible to pick a high point to the evening... nearly. For this writer and Stritch-aficionado, the highlights were a relatively straightforward but luxurious "I Can Dream, Can't I?" and a thrill-a-minute "Tell Her in the Morning" but if you ask the gentleman seated one table over, the evening high was hearing Billy sing his own composition "Since You Left New York" - as the song was ending, the gent to my left could be heard to exclaim, "Unbelievable!" And you know what? He was right.

Review: Put a Bow On BILLY STRITCH BIG BIRDLAND BIRTHDAY BASH! - A Swell, Shiny Gift For All To Enjoy Not unbelievable and completely expected was the quality of entertainment provided by Billy Stritch's special guests for the evening - each show will feature visits from Stritch-ers, and last night Billy welcomed to the stage the man he declares to be his best friend, Jim Caruso, and possibly the dreamiest New York Leading Man of all, Max von Essen. With each of his starry guest artists joining in for two numbers, Billy had a chance to showcase a talent for which he is well-regarded in the business - his ability to play well with others. Stritch is a highly respected musical director and accompanist for many great stars; it is work he enjoys and work he is good at, so it should be put in the light, even though he is the star of the moment (and, for this writer, a star who should always be center stage). Whether dueting with the hilarious Caruso or the stylish von Essen, the inclusion of his friends in the program makes the evening more like a house concert than an evening out - appropriate because Birdland is Billy's home. And when a person sits in a theater and hears him play, when you hear him sing, talk, and laugh while playing that piano, it's like you've come home, too.

Thank goodness he was born.

Catch the Billy Stritch BIG BIRDLAND BIRTHDAY BASH! at these times with these guests:

Friday 2/11, 7 pm - Sally Mayes

Friday 2/11, 9:30 pm - Gabrielle Stravelli

Saturday 2/12, 7 pm - Klea Blackhurst

Saturday 2/12, 9:30 pm - Marilyn Maye

The Billy Stritch Trio is Strich on piano, the extraordinary Tom Hubbard on bass, and the magnificent Eric Halvorson on drums.

For reservations to these shows and other great Birdland performances visit the Birdland website HERE.

Billy Stritch has a website HERE and two new CDs available HERE and HERE.

Review: Put a Bow On BILLY STRITCH BIG BIRDLAND BIRTHDAY BASH! - A Swell, Shiny Gift For All To Enjoy
Review: Put a Bow On BILLY STRITCH BIG BIRDLAND BIRTHDAY BASH! - A Swell, Shiny Gift For All To Enjoy Review: Put a Bow On BILLY STRITCH BIG BIRDLAND BIRTHDAY BASH! - A Swell, Shiny Gift For All To Enjoy Review: Put a Bow On BILLY STRITCH BIG BIRDLAND BIRTHDAY BASH! - A Swell, Shiny Gift For All To Enjoy

Review: Put a Bow On BILLY STRITCH BIG BIRDLAND BIRTHDAY BASH! - A Swell, Shiny Gift For All To Enjoy Review: Put a Bow On BILLY STRITCH BIG BIRDLAND BIRTHDAY BASH! - A Swell, Shiny Gift For All To Enjoy Review: Put a Bow On BILLY STRITCH BIG BIRDLAND BIRTHDAY BASH! - A Swell, Shiny Gift For All To Enjoy Review: Put a Bow On BILLY STRITCH BIG BIRDLAND BIRTHDAY BASH! - A Swell, Shiny Gift For All To Enjoy Review: Put a Bow On BILLY STRITCH BIG BIRDLAND BIRTHDAY BASH! - A Swell, Shiny Gift For All To Enjoy Review: Put a Bow On BILLY STRITCH BIG BIRDLAND BIRTHDAY BASH! - A Swell, Shiny Gift For All To Enjoy Review: Put a Bow On BILLY STRITCH BIG BIRDLAND BIRTHDAY BASH! - A Swell, Shiny Gift For All To Enjoy Review: Put a Bow On BILLY STRITCH BIG BIRDLAND BIRTHDAY BASH! - A Swell, Shiny Gift For All To Enjoy

Review: Put a Bow On BILLY STRITCH BIG BIRDLAND BIRTHDAY BASH! - A Swell, Shiny Gift For All To Enjoy Review: Put a Bow On BILLY STRITCH BIG BIRDLAND BIRTHDAY BASH! - A Swell, Shiny Gift For All To Enjoy

Photos by Stephen Mosher


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From This Author - Stephen Mosher