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BWW Review: Ilene Graff Brings Christmas Cheer to Feinstein's

BWW Review: Ilene Graff Brings Christmas Cheer to Feinstein's

Actress/singer Ilene Graff may be best remembered to TV audiences for "Mr. Belvedere" and for her varied performances on Broadway, but for Los Angeles audiences no one holds a cabaret audience more captivated than this yet sparklingly talented lady. On Saturday December 21, Graff brought a fun-filled holiday show to a packed audience at Feinstein's Upstairs at Vitello's.

Backed by superb musical director/husband Ben Lanzarone at the piano, Jamey Tate on drums and Dominic Genova on guitar and bass, Graff's 80 minute set was a real family entertainment with her brother Tony nominated Todd Graff as special guest star. Another special guest was Harlan Boll, a pr rep by day and singer by night. Being a holiday show, Graff interspersed her anecdotes of growing up in Brooklyn and being a Jew with colorful Christmas tunes. When she was asked why as a Jew she sang Christian songs, she delightfully replied that Jewish music is so sad and, "OK, Im going to sing, but you're not going to enjoy it." It is this kind of self-deprecating humor that makes Graff so loved and admired.

Graff threw out celebrity names to Boll and he told a funny little story about each. For example, Mel Brooks called him "one of the funniest gentiles." Bob Hope asked Boll, "What's in the news today? Am I dead or alive?" Graff and Boll dueted on the deliciously comical "The Grass is Always Greener" from Woman of the Year, and Boll followed solo with a lovely "The Impossible Dream" from Man of La Mancha.

With her baby brother, as she calls Todd, Graff and he took turns tributing their parents with "Mama, a Rainbow", "Papa, Can You Hear Me?" and "The Prayer". Both Graffs have powerhouse Broadway voices with dynamic range. They concluded with the lighthearted "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town". It is clear that the two are very close. What a great reminder for us to reach out and love family at this time of the year and always!

Christmas highlights of the evening included: "Happy Holidays", "Do You Hear What I Hear?", "Silver Bells", "My Favorite Things" and my personal favorite "Hard Candy Christmas", as well as many, many others. Graff introduced a song that she and Lanzarone wrote, "I Know That Life's Worth Living", another true reminder at year's end for us to move forward with hope and love in our hearts.

Graff appeared in the original Promises, Promises on Broadway as one of the Turkey Lurkey girls and treated us to "Turkey Lurkey Time" as well as "Christmas Day."

Broadway, pop interspersed with Christmas tunes is a lovely way to spend an evening in cabaret, as long as you are spending it with Ilene Graff. She is one of a handful of true passionate performers who we can count on to grace our stages.
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The dinner at Vitello's is scrumptious as always and the waiter/waitress staff are friendly and efficient. I look forward to spending more time here in 2020.

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