Review - Peter Marshall: And Then She Wrote

"If you'd like to sing along with us, please don't. It confuses me."

Self-depreciating references to his age are hardly necessary for Peter Marshall, whose Metropolitan Room gig marks his first major cabaret engagement since he was partnered with Tommy Noonan in late 1950s. In between he squeezed in careers as a musical comedy leading man - most famously on Broadway opposite Julie Harris in Skyscraper - and as the five-time Emmy Award winning host of The Hollywood Squares.

But even at 86 years of age, his saloon singing skills are still in exceptional shape. The flashing smile from his handsomely-creased face is as charming as his mellow, romantic baritone crooning old favorites.

Marshall surrounds himself with talented women both on stage and on the set list for And Then She Wrote, a fun and lively revue of American Songbook classics written or co-written by women. With music director Anne Drummond on piano and flute and Brandi Disterheft on bass, the male star shares vocal responsibilities with jazz singers Carol Welsman (who occasionally takes over the keyboard) and Denise Donatelli. And he does share the stage. The three divide up material pretty evenly.

Of course, the matriarch of the American Songbook, Nora Bayes, is introduced early on with "Shine On, Harvest Moon." Dorothy Fields is well represented with favorites like "Sunny Side of the Street," "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" and "The Way You Look Tonight," as are Carolyn Leigh ("The Best Is Yet To Come" "Young At Heart" "Real Live Girl") and Betty Comden ("Make Someone Happy" "Just In Time" "The Party's Over").

Thirty-nine songs in total, including selections by Ella Fitzgerald ("A-Tisket, A-Tasket"), Marilyn Bergman ("What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?") and Peggy Lee ("It's a Good Day") are packed into the 90-minute program, mostly by limiting each presentation to one chorus. The mixture of solos, duets and three-part harmonies are done in straightforward, standard arrangements with bits of patter praising each songwriter and adding some of Marshall's personal remembrances.

And Then She Wrote may not be a particularly creative venture, but it's a polished, cheery and enjoyable interlude, and a welcome chance to see one of television's iconic figures successfully return to the type of performing he first loved.

Photo: Carol Welsman, Peter Marshall and Denise Donatelli.

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