BWW Reviews: JEFF MACAULEY's Charming, Sophisticated Tribute to the Music of Henry Mancini Hits All the Right Notes at the Metropolitan Room
In Mr. Lucky, Jeff Macauley's urbane cabaret show featuring the songs of Henry Mancini, (which recently finished a three-show run at the Metropolitan Room) you learn that the famed composer came by his luck and success the old-fashioned way: single-minded purpose fueled by hard work and determination. Yet, Macauley, a former Bistro Award winner, makes telling Mancini's story look so easy. Debonair in his impeccable suit and fashionable specs, the singer uses a light touch to deliver songs he was determined to bring out of the background and into the spotlight.
Through a satisfying mixture of well-known songs and more obscure tunes, Macauley weaves tidbits of personal history, movie reviews, and Mancini trivia together for a pithy between songs narrative. He sought out lyrics to favorite movie and TV themes, such as Bye, Bye, popularly known as the Peter Gunn Theme, and Baby Elephant Walk from the 1962 movie Hatari. Macauley also searched for lyrics to the beloved signature tune from the Pink Panther movies. He didn't find any. However, he did discover the reason for the lack of words: Johnny Mercer, who provided lyrics for the entire soundtrack, told Mancini the Panther theme song did not need lyrics, so Mancini obeyed and what would become his most famous tune would live on as an instrumental. But somehow Tex Arnold, Macauley's music director and master arranger, found a way to sneak the theme-Pink Panther-like?--into the instrumentation of the song "Straight to Baby," another nifty tune from the Peter Gunn TV series.
Arnold and the bassist Jon Burr made a sophisticated team, lending just the right flavor to McCauley's relaxed vocal sound and demeanor. The blend between the musicians and the singer was perfectly elegant. Moon River, Dreamsville, Days of Wine and Roses, and Charade--recognizable hits all--were gracefully rendered, showcasing their beauty. Macauley contextualized Soldier in the Rain and Natalie by offering quirky, engaging movie summaries of the films for which the songs were composed. It took all my self-control to refrain from opening the Netflix app on my phone and start madly adding to it.
As the show felt a touch too long, Macauley's presentation would have benefited from a couple of judicious cuts. And the singer's somewhat narrow vocal range limited the emotional topography we are invited to traverse over the course of the program. That said, Macauley uses his talents wisely and his ease on stage is incredibly charming. Through his musical choices, winning presence, and well-chosen narrative morsels, McCauley has crafted a delightful production, and as a fan of the master Mancini's music, one I felt richer for having experienced.