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Review: TONY DANZA STANDARDS & STORIES at The Café Carlyle by Guest Reviewer Andrew Poretz

TV icon and Broadway veteran Tony Danza is back at the Carlyle and the fans are filling the seats.

Review: TONY DANZA STANDARDS & STORIES at The Café Carlyle by Guest Reviewer Andrew Poretz

Tony Danza

Standards & Stories

The Café Carlyle

June 14-25, 2022

By Andrew Poretz

Sitcom actor turned "song and dance man" Tony Danza opened a two-week run at the world-renowned Café Carlyle this week. The star is a paisan who exudes such familiarity and warmth that he feels like family - after all, there's a very good chance you've seen him in your living room. If your only experience of the charming Mr. Danza -- oh, let's call him Tony -- is his TV work (whether you know him as the adorable, innocent Tony Banta on Taxi or as the sweet "manny" on Who's The Boss?) you may be surprised to discover that Tony is a first-rate entertainer who sings, tap dances, is a master storyteller, and, in a pinch, can play the ukulele pretty damned well. Years of experience as a comedic and dramatic actor might explain his comic timing and nuanced reading of a sensitive lyric. His early years as a light-heavyweight boxer make tap dancing a natural but beyond that slightly gruff Brooklyn accent lies a sensitive soul with a warm and surprisingly good voice. The fit, still-boyish entertainer, now over 70 but with a full head of gray hair, delivered a delightful and intimate show.

The star, smartly dressed in a black tuxedo, black necktie, and a white dress shirt, started the set with a vigorous rendition of Bobby Darin's original song that served as his closing number, "As Long as I'm Singing." Though you wouldn't call Tony a jazz singer, he surprised the packed Carlyle crowd with some scat singing at the break; scat requires technical skill and a great feel for melody and rhythm to pull off successfully, and he has all of those things. Mr. Danza only barely slowed things down with "How Little We Know" (Carolyn Leigh/Phillip Springer). His respect for the craft of songwriting is apparent in his consistent naming of the composers throughout the evening - he was apologetic about this tendency, but it's certainly a habit he learned from his musical hero, Frank Sinatra.

Tony was excited to return to the Carlyle again, a venue he could only dream about as a young man in Brooklyn, but that is, now, visible from his Manhattan apartment. Announcing, "I'm back by popular demand... I demanded it!", Tony took his time telling stories of his life, with the sweetest ones about his mother, who was an "OB ... an original bobbysoxer!" It was his mother who turned young Tony on to Frank Sinatra. Years later, she told him, "When you introduce your mother to Frank Sinatra, THEN you're a star!" That eventual introduction, which occurred when Sinatra appeared on Who's the Boss?, was about the only time he ever saw his mother speechless. One of several songs he performed that are associated with Sinatra was "It Was a Very Good Year" (Ervin Drake), with just guitarist Dave Shoop backing him.

Mr. Danza told a New York story while pianist Joe Davidian played the strains of "Manhattan," leading to a lightly swinging "How About You?" Here, Tony surprised all but his loyal fans -- particularly the large table of gorgeous women seated directly behind me, whom he called out from the stage -- with a lively tap dance, a skill he would reprise later in the evening.

Tony's story of a surprise invitation to a party at lyricist Sammy Cahn's home was a delicious, celebrity-filled tale of joy and wonder. He was apt to drop A-list names in his story, though he quipped, "My friend Bobby DeNiro told me not to do that!" When he did drop names, it was always with the still-present awe of the Brooklyn kid who could not quite believe his luck - this is part of why the star feels so authentic and approachable. As a companion piece to the story, Danza delivered a swinging medley of Cahn tunes written with composer Saul Chaplin - "Please Be Kind" and "Until the Real Thing Comes Along." When he sang "If My Friends Could See Me Now" (Cy Coleman/Dorothy Fields), it could have been his life story, and his "pow!" was delivered with just a hint of the punch that knocked out nine opponents, seven in the first round.

Mr. Danza sang a pair of compositions from the musical Honeymoon in Vegas (Jason Robert Brown) in which he originated a leading role on Broadway - the charming "Betsy," a witty New York ditty filled with great references, and the comedic tune "Out of the Sun." The latter song tells the tale of a man who loved a sun-worshipping gal and regretted being "so blind and deaf, I might have saved her with a higher S.P.F." Tony's straight, earnest delivery of this very funny song made it his "Flaw in My Flue" (a novelty song Sinatra recorded in similar fashion with a string quartet, purportedly to test if the "suits" at Capitol Records were even paying attention).

A delightful segment involved the ukulele, as the star told of following a "Thought of the Day" calendar suggestion to get a ukulele and some chord charts and play every day for 30 days. "It was a long thought that day!" He became competent at the instrument and took a ukulele that had been hiding in plain sight atop the grand piano to demonstrate his skills. Tony performed part or all of several songs, ranging from the century-old "Five Foot Two" to "Love Potion Number 9" (for which the audience gladly chimed in), to the torch song "I Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry" (Sammy Cahn/James Van Heusen). He claimed he botched this song on Tuesday's sold-out opening night performance before Sammy Cahn's widow, Tita, and needed to redeem himself. He sang the verse and much of the song before his musicians came in. "If you can ever get a band," he said, nodding at his band, "get one!"

For an encore, Tony sang the relatively obscure saloon song, "Drinking Again" (Doris Tauber/Johnny Mercer), which was also recorded by Mr. Sinatra in 1967. As Sinatra often did for "saloon songs," he sang it with just Dave Shoop's fine guitar work.

Tony Danza will perform nightly until June 25, 2022. If you love great songs and funny stories, you'll love this show, and it is impossible not to love Tony Danza.

Piano/backup vocals: Joe Davidian

Bass: John Arbo

Guitar/backup vocals: Dave Shoup

Drums: Ed Caccavale

Much of the material for Standards & Stories was originally arranged by the late pianist John Oddo, who passed away suddenly in 2019.

For more information about Tony Danza and his performance schedule, visit https://tonydanza.com. For more great shows at Café Carlyle, visit: https://www.rosewoodhotels.com/en/the-carlyle-new-york/experiences/cafe-carlyle

Photo of Tony Danza provided by The Carlyle

STANDARDS & STORIES is produced by Dan Farah of Farah Films, who served as one of the lead producers of the Broadway musical Honeymoon In Vegas, starring Mr. Danza, and who is producing the sequel to the beloved Eighties sitcom Who's The Boss, in which Tony Danza will reprise his role as Tony Micelli.


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