The Cabaret Chronicles: The Incomparable Connie Francis!
Happy Easter, Happy Passover, or Happy Whatever-You're-Celebrating this weekend, everyone! Spring is here, and believe it or not, after making it through the entire winter without getting a cold, I spent most of this past week laid up with a nasty one! As a result, I only made it to ONE of the shows I was planning on seeing...but boy, oh boy, what a show it was! On Saturday, April 4th, I headed down to the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, NJ, to see the legendary Connie Francis in concert.
I wasn't too sure what to expect going into it - how would she sound? Would she still have a voice? Would she remember all the lyrics? At 70 years old and having lived through some major traumas, what kind of show would she be able to put on? Well, my questions were soon answered - she sounded great, she definitely still has a voice, she remembered every single lyric in all of her 26 songs, and she put on a heck of a show! Sure, the keys of the songs are lower and the uptempos may not be quite as "up" as they were 50 years ago, but the voice and the passion are still there, and I was in awe for two straight hours, watching one of the best female pop singers EVER do what she does best - sing!
Backed by a 21-piece orchestra and a single female backup singer, Ms. Francis opened with a cover of The Pointer Sisters' "I'm So Excited," and followed that with a song first popularized by Ray Charles, "Unchain My Heart," before launching into her own hit songs - and boy, there were plenty of them! In the first half of the concert alone, she covered "Who's Sorry Now," " Stupid Cupid," "Where The Boys Are," "Among My Souvenirs," "Everybody's Somebody's Fool," "I'll Follow The Boys," "V.A.C.A.T.I.O.N." and more! At intermission, I found myself wondering, "What's left?" And then it hit me - the Italian songs, the Jewish songs, the Al Jolson tribute...and hopefully a few surprises. And bingo! I was right! She kicked off the second half with a fantastic medley of her Italian songs, and sang a few of them in their entirety - including "Mama," which showed off the incredible power she still has in her voice - I was simply blown away! Wow!
Then she did do a few of her Jewish hits, and also "Malaguena," in Spanish, a tribute to Al Jolson, a tribute to Frank Sinatra, and near the end of the show, she delivered one of the most touching moments of the night with a plaintive, pleading, "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" Overall, it was an outstanding show - and, if possible, it made me a bigger Connie Francis fan than I already was (not an easy feat)!
Where I'm going this week...
Wednesday, April 15th: Free Outdoor Concert at Tudor City Greens! Concert is at 6:00 p.m., with free post-show gathering at 925 Lounge. The hour and a half long program of music and comedy - themed "Make Our Garden Grow" - will feature performers from Broadway and the New York City cabaret scene. The concert will be hosted by Tudor City resident, Broadway and cabaret performer Raissa Katona Bennett (Phantom of the Opera, Chess) and feature performances by comedian Richard Cramer, Eric Michael Gillett (Sweet Smell of Success, The Frogs; MAC-Award winner), Rosemary Loar (Cats), Roger Mapes (GLBT Hall of Fame: Singer/ Songwriter), Sarah Rice (Broadway's original "Johanna" in Sweeney Todd, The Fantasticks) , cabaret artists Hector Coris, Jenna Esposito (yep, yours truly!), Rob Langeder, Tanya Moberly, Maureen Taylor, Karen Oberlin, and Lennie Watts, as well as cabaret newcomers Candy Benge and Tom Vaughn. The musical directors are David Caldwell, Mark Janas, and Bill Zeffiro. The cast is subject to change. The event will take place in the North Park of Tudor City Greens Park - enter at Tudor City Place between East 42nd and 43rd Streets, between 1st and 2nd avenues.
Thursday, April 16th: Julian Yeo and his retro-jazz band at the Time Out NY Lounge. I always have a great time hearing Julian and his awesome band, and the TONY Lounge is the perfect place to catch them, with its cool, retro vibe! They start at 7:00 and go until about 9:30.