Review: NIGHTS AT THE ALGONQUIN Opens Winter Rhythms Series with Class & Fun & Memories

22 different shows! Over 100 performers! Wow!

By: Dec. 08, 2023
Review: NIGHTS AT THE ALGONQUIN Opens Winter Rhythms Series with Class & Fun & Memories
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Urban Stages to Present 15th Annual WINTER RHYTHMS Featuring 22 Shows and Over 100 Performers

Running through December 17, the annual mammoth WINTER RHYTHMS series of shows was off to a running start with its opening night program this week.  You’re likely to run into some of your favorites if you run over to the Urban Stages theatre at 259 West 30th Street for the parade of programs to come because more than 100 entertainers from cabaret and other genres participate, with a total of 22 events.  Those honored in song range from Elizabeth Taylor to Taylor Swift, from Disney to Sting, country music and blues, and a fair amount of Christmas fare. 

The first night had the theme of fondly remembered history of the Algonquin Hotel, with a follow-up coming up on Sunday afternoon (December 10) when a bevy of performers will present songs from musicals written by folks who stayed at the storied hotel over the years.  Both of these events have Sara Louise Lazarus as director (her own students hold forth in the series, too) and boast Michael Colby as affable, well-spoken host and curator, bringing a sense of first-hand knowledge and warm memories, for he spent much time there in his life, as his grandparents owned it for about 40 years. 

Review: NIGHTS AT THE ALGONQUIN Opens Winter Rhythms Series with Class & Fun & Memories On the bill both times: Steve Ross, who was the first performer to grace the Algonquin’s Oak Room when it re-opened for cabaret shows back in the previous century. At Winter Rhythms’ 2023 opening, he was the first to sing (first a capella and then as his own pianist), dipping into the Noel Coward songbook, a dip he’s been doing deftly for decades. Karen Akers, dressed all in bright Christmas red, dazzled with drama and authority, choosing two other composer/lyricists to sample: Cole Porter and Stephen Sondheim. Both decked out in various shades of Christmas green, with a green feather boa given a workout, the duo of KT Sullivan (vocals, vivacity, vamping) and song partner Mark Nadler (also at the piano) had the same songwriter picks–and more.  They were granted a long segment, allowing them to dig out more material from their many tunesmith-themed sets, including remarkably reimagined perspectives on “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” (him, slow and stunningly meaningful) and her vampy “Never Met a Man I Didn’t Like.” These two, who never met a medley they didn’t like, are agelessly mirthful, mercurial, and mischievous. 

Singer-pianist Daryl Sherman, with Boots Maleson on bass, charmed with a radiant, life-affirming “A Hundred Million Miracles” from Flower Drum Song, which first came to Broadway in 1958. Musicals that opened the very next year, or were still running then, had been the subject for one of Jeff Harnar’s memorable acts and he came along with a lively, humorous segment from that, focused on sly looks at politics. Longtime musical director Alex Rybeck joined in jovially to duet and was also at the keyboard for others during the evening, except for the aforementioned three singers who are also pianists. Two of host Michael Colby’s own fine lyrics were part of the terrific night, too, as Natalie Douglas’s voice soared to deliver diva-worthy dazzle to belt the bravura “I Can Sing” (music by Paul Katz) and Karen Oberlin warmly reminded us of the Oak Room’s gone-but-not-to-be-forgotten stars with “In My Dreams” (melody by Gerald Jay Markoe). Veteran of 25 years of Oak Room shows, Andrea Marcovicci, was seen on screen via the magic of technology to add thoughts about time gone by and to sing a bit of “As Time Goes By.” 

Review: NIGHTS AT THE ALGONQUIN Opens Winter Rhythms Series with Class & Fun & Memories Closing with a full company/audience sing-along of the Gershwins’ “Love Is Here to Stay” and refreshments, the night brought us almost everything we remember about the legendary old days in the legendary Oak Room and the Algonquin except the legendary Matilda, the cat who regally prowled and purred around the place.  But, with all the talent on hand, this program was, for classic cabaret connoisseurs, the cat’s meow. 

See www.urbanstages.org for the full list of Winter Rhythms' many shows and ticket prices. All proceeds benefit Urban Stages’ outreach programs for children. Items dropped off for the theatre’s participation in a Toy Drive for homeless children are also appreciated. 



































 



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