Charlie Romo at The Green Room 42

Charlie Romo

Roman Candle: The Ultimate Bobby Darin Experience starring Charlie Romo

The Green Room 42, NYC, June 28th, 2019

Reviewed by Chris Struck


Romo was back and better than ever. This time he debuted his Bobby Darin show, a project in the making for quite a while. Anyone who’s seen him before has heard him preach about the inspiration Darin has been for him, and heard him often quoting the line, “I want to be the biggest there’s ever been by 25.” And yet, those brief shout outs to the Italian star that burned so bright for too short a time (i.e. a “Roman Candle”) were merely foreshadowing to the great tribute to Darin put on by one of today’s most promising crooners, Romo. The young star took to the stage to share the story of Darin’s life with the man’s own songs in a classic example of a well-researched, run, and rehearsed cabaret.

 Songs like “Splish Splash” and “Beyond the Sea” were ample starters, blending into the myriad of stellar performances by Romo. The performer worked the stage, jived to the music, and practically conducted everything from saxophone entrances to cymbal smashes along with the movements of his seven-piece band. The result? Bathed in adoration from an enormous crowd, Romo’s energy was unstoppable. One of his classic choices, “Mack the Knife” became merely a strong moment among strong moments when any other time it might have been a sure highlight.

 Instead, the greatest highlights were of “Dream Lover,” which Romo introduced as if he was Darin trying out a hook for his band, “18 Yellow Roses,” “Once Upon a Time,” and “The Curtain Falls.” His performances were so thrilling and gripping that it would be remiss to pick out a single line, but “Once upon a time a girl with moonlight in her eyes Put her hand in mine and said she loved me so” did well to highlight the love Darin had for Sandra Dee.

 Another incredible moment as we walked through Bobby’s rock, swing, and country careers (singing “Simple Song of Freedom”), was when he pulled out an unreleased Bobby Darin single written by a member of the audience, Jack Urbant, called “Manhattan in my Heart.” Romo’s powerful voice and love for the same hometown New York, wowed the audience in the lines, “I’ve seen it get dark form the top of the mark…I’ve got Manhattan in my heart.”

 Charlie Romo’s band included pianist, Jeff Harris; bassist, Jon Burr; drummer, Howie Gordon; guitarist, Jack Cavari; saxophonist, Steven Frieder; trumpeter, Tony Gorruso; and Malec Heermans played trombone. Look out old Romo will be back with his Darin show soon.


Seth Bisen-Hersh at Don't Tell Mama

dont tell mama.jpeg

Seth Bisen-Hersh

Seth’s Talent Showcase: Jerry Herman Cabaret

Don’t Tell Mama, June 4th, 2019

I’ve seen a sampling of Seth Bisen-Hersh’s shows now, both when he’s been the producer and when he’s been musical director. He’s efficient, throws in a dash of the comical, and generally lays the gist out very well. When it came to his Jerry Herman show, there was a special pep and for good reason. Bisen-Hersh brought in a solid line-up of performers and had strong underlying material. As musical-director and MC, he guided the movement of the show by sharing anecdotes about the exceptional Herman between songs. The songs were taken from Herman’s musicals, arranged one-by-one from Mame to La Cage Aux Folles in no particular order. Bisen-Hersh sang a pair of songs, but most notably, his commentary drew laughs as he pointed out the tricks of cabaret that generally go unspoken such as “complementing your audience, so that they like you.”


My favorite performances were in the core of the show on all three of the Mack and Mabel songs, which included “Look What Happened to Mabel” sung by Elizabeth Budinoff, “I Won’t Send Roses” sung by Brian Childers, and “Wherever He Ain’t” sung by Katie McConaughy. The trio stood out among clean performances by the rest of the cast, through a dash of panache, which added a little extra to their songs. By acting their songs well, they were able to communicate meaning beyond the lyrics.


They weren’t the only ones to throw in a solid performance, however. Sallie Bieterman captured a taste of the Broadway glitz of Hello, Dolly! with a strong performance of “So Long Dearie.” One of my favorites from the show, Bieterman’s “Goodbye. Don’t try to stop me Horace, please” was especially believable. Also solid, Mary Lauren and Paul Hanegan, joined Childers and McConaughy on the farcical song, “Elegance,” belting sweetly the lines, “We’ve got Elegance, we got built in elegance/and with elegance, we’ll carry it off.”


With Bisen-Hersh at the piano, it’s safe to say this talented cast “carried it off.”

Susan Batson Studio presents Mary Setrakian Student Showcase

Mary Setrakian

Susan Batson Studio presents Mary Setrakian Student Showcase

The Triad, NYC, August 28th, 2018

Reviewed by Chris Struck


By chance I found myself at The Triad for a Showcase of talent taught by the wonderful, Mary Setrakian, who lit up the stage with both her charm and her exceptional vocal talent especially on her finale performance of “Never Enough” from The Greatest Showman (Benj Pasek and Justin Paul). However, it was not a surprise to see the Master Vocal Teacher excel, it was up to her students to be the surprises of the evening. There were a few notables that deserve the utmost praise for their ability to exemplify the dedication necessary to perform at or near Setrakian’s standard. But first, it is noteworthy to mention the host for the evening Susan Campanaro, who as alter ego, Lavinia Draper, changed costumes between singers and then introduced them with flair. If she hadn’t been in ensembles resembling lingerie and bikinis for most of the night, she would have been the classiest of the affair. However, that was reserved for the talent who performed generally two songs each that were of varying styles.


The striking vocal performances early were turned in by Lexie Lowell, Verlon Brown (performing as Nat King Cole), and Abigail Witt. These three combined to show that Setrakian’s vocal workshop provided dimension as well as volume. Lowell’s “Like Love” (Cy Coleman and David Zippel) from City of Angels struck a nostalgic chord while Verlon Brown’s “Tenderly” (Walter Gross and Jack Lawrence) doubled the amorous tide that filtered from the stage. Extending their performances to a darker frame, Abigail Witt struck a dominant note and held out a weary heart crooning, “I know it’s time/and I play/maybe I like it this way” from the Wild Party song, “Maybe I Like it This Way” by Andrew Lippa.


Over and above the rest of the cast, however, were James Borrelli, Eloïse Mueller, and Chantelle Cognevich who rounded out the evening before Setrakian strutted her vocal stuff on stage once again. Borrelli’s vocal talent could not be denied as he charmed with an inspiring “Feeling Good” (Anthony Newley and Leslie Briousse). Birds flying high indeed. Flying higher, however, was Mueller who defied gravity by performing the operatic, “Steal me Sweet Thief” from The Old Maid and the Thief (Gian Carl Menotti) and the contemporary musical classic “Defying Gravity” from Wicked (Stephen Schwartz). One of the simultaneously strongest and softest of voices of the night, she soared when she went from “Unlimited, together we’re unlimited,” to, “I’m flying high, defying gravity!” Following her was an equally impressive, Chantelle Cognevich who sang an inspiring rendition of “No other Love” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein gem, Me and Juliet. “Watching the night go by/Wishing that you could be/Watching the night with me” brought the mood back to the ardent affection that had opened the evening so well.


The work being done at the Susan Batson Studio and by Mary Setrakian impressed me greatly. Take your own look soon!

Ten Foot Rat Cabaret at Under St. Marks x2

Ten Foot Rat Cabaret

Various Performers -- Produced by Rob Dub and Gregory Levine

Under St. Marks -- 94 St. Marks Place; New York, NY 10009

Reviewed 12/9/17

Pic via Ten Foot Rat at

Pic via Ten Foot Rat at

The Ten Foot Rat Cabaret impressed me again with a solid line-up of talented performers at Under St. Marks Theater. This theater, Under St. Marks, and the Ten Foot Rat seem to represent some of the edge that nostalgically lingers over New York’s streets. I’d say it’s a must-see variety show of strong acts for anyone who lives in the East Village especially considering you get them all under one roof for one of moonlit Manhattan’s best deals. This line-up featured the stalwart Guilty Pleasures Cabaret girls in some of their classy dance routines as well as the return of the darkly mesmerizing Shayfer James.

Shayfer James opened and closed the night and certainly put us into a trance starting off with an intense, “Oh your time is coming fast and the ferryman only deals in cash.” If you expected only comedy and a taste of burlesque, then you might have been in for a dark surprise. With a little bit of a parlor room, upbeat piano over which James croons sweetly in a husky voice about murder, it’s a little like sitting in on the in-house entertainment for the Adam’s Family’s annual ball.

Tough to follow that up with comedy? I’m not so sure especially for Melissa Aquiles who made it easy to laugh at a drunken santa left over from last year’s santa con. The audience joked around with her too as she went through the trials of being that typical “frat boy” who went too far. Having been that far gone myself a few times (as has the rest of the audience maybe), there were a lot of moments to chuckle at one’s own blunders.

Appearing again for the Ten Foot Rat was also the excellent Gregor of Berlin. No one handles the anti-joke with such stunning alacrity as the character’s creator, Gregory Levine. As he talked about the tribulations of poor Rudolph and bemoaned the sadistic traditions of Christmas fables, we were lured into the quiet cunning of Levine’s mastery of the art form. Once again the lesson? Live! Live your life to the fullest! Just seeing one of Levine’s sketches of Gregor of Berlin is worth coming to the Ten Foot Rat.

Another awesome sight to see was the Guilty Pleasure Cabaret girls. These dancers put on a revolving sequence of skits that are often holiday and seasonally themed. Their talent for acrobatics, timing, and ability to do all of their complicated skits in the middle of the night time after time make them one of my favorite acts in New York. Truly a pleasure to get a chance to see them work and to see what intricate costumes they’ll dance in next!

If Shayfer James’ hadn’t started us off with dark, then Noam Osband’s skit would have certainly added it. It was an easy one to laugh/cringe at. He sang about love from the perspective of Hitler’s wife, Eva Braun. It doesn’t get much more convoluted than that as one might simultaneously hope the heroine gets her love whilst knowing that she loved…yeah…

Before the Guilty Pleasures girls and Shayfer James, sent us off into the night with another dance and song respectively, Pamela Wess performed one of the most clever burlesque asks I’ve seen. As a clown, burlesque dancer, she attempted to perform a strip tease and constantly failed to do so. She easily found a space that combined funny and sexy although without the clown nose it may have been hard to figure out.

Hope you get a chance to see the Ten Foot Rat Cabaret! They’re a good group of people including host, Jillian Thomas, whose wise cracks about Canada versus the US have only gotten more nuclear ammunition as of late. Get ready for the next show in this monthly series tonight, January 13th!

Ten Foot Rat Cabaret at Under St. Marks

This review of Ten Foot Rat Cabaret at Under St. Mark's Theater was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Ten Foot Rat Cabaret
Jillian Thomas - Master of Ceremonies
Produced by Gregory Levine & Rob Dub
Featuring Various Performers
Under St. Mark's Theater
94 St. Mark's Place
New York, New York 10009
Reviewed 8/2/17

Ten Foot Rat Cabaret is an entertaining and worthwhile experience for anyone interested in a taste of the New York Cabaret Scene. In a small black-box theater on St. Mark's Place, this variety show has been running for four years now. As far as cabarets go, this extravaganza features older, experienced performers as well as newcomers. With a rotating roster combining the classic single singer, comedy, and burlesque routines from month to month, there is an opportunity to immerse yourself in New York Culture and get an idea of what types of shows might interest you. Additionally, you may see one or more of these performers returning, and perhaps also get a surprise visit by Neil Diamond - if only. The following six performers were featured at the Ten Foot Rat Cabaret on August 2nd:  She She Dance, Kevin Michael Smith, Gregor of Berlin, Galatea Stone, Shayna Bliss and the JJs, and artist-in-residence Bill Chambers as Neil Diamond. The comedian, Jillian Thomas, was the Master of Ceremonies. I am told the name Ten Foot Rat Cabaret was inspired "by those giant inflatable union-local on-strike Rat balloons seen throughout New York City and, of course, our durable hometown critters themselves."

Pre-show (Taken by press)

Pre-show (Taken by press)

She She Dance opened and closed the night. Introduced by Jillian Thomas as one of their returning performers, she opened us up with a bang. Blues singer She She Dance, a pseudonym for Azusa Dance, has a strong voice, a positive attitude, and solid dance moves. Putting those together in the intimate, grungy atmosphere at Under St. Mark's Theater was like putting an energizer bunny into your living room if your living room looked and smelled like a basement with a bar. She sang Dancing In The Street and Ain't Nothing But A Hound Dog with the verve of a Red Bull. At times, her deep voice was a little scratchy, but she really packed a lot of power into each line which made for a good opening.

Kevin Michael Smith was next up. An Air Force Man, Kevin's jokes tended to revolve around his time as both a reserve and deployed member of the USAF in Afghanistan. Some of the references that might have drawn a few cheers from a different crowd didn't get the same reaction from this Lower East Side audience. Still, he earned a few good laughs and was able to adjust his routine to the audience as he went including the gem that he probably set the record for "most condoms on (him) at one time while having unprotected sex." He performs a weekly show, Polished Comedy, at Beauty Bar in Manhattan.

He was followed by Gregor of Berlin (Gregory Levine) who was "contractually obligated" to appear. First, he pontificated on the trials of being relegated to a lower status of a comedian by his agent who wanted him to hone his craft. It was a clever sequence of self-effacing jokes which appeared within grander statements. He would remark on his frustrations on being sent to rooms with comedians who actually needed the help as if he was unaware that his comedy wasn't quite up to snuff. One of these destinations was Disney World where Gregor entertained children. With a stalwart set of stout anti-jokes, Gregor was able to deliver jokes in the form of advice and mockery of American children. He'll be at 54 Below on September 8th. He also hosts and co-directs Guilty Pleasures Cabaret.

Gregor also got the best job of the night according to him, introducing the burlesque dancer, Galatea Stone. Galatea strutted in dressed in blue with a feathery turquoise scarf that draped to the floor on what looked like 9-inch heels. Somewhere 7 or above at least. Talent. She danced for the song Sex & Candy by Marcy Playground, gradually pulling articles of clothing off and enticing the crowd to follow her hand gestures. It seemed like she would bare it all only to reveal a pair of stickers covering up her nipples. If you are interested, she'll be at Legion in Brooklyn for her monthly show, We Are Legion, at 8 p.m. on August 9th.

Shayna Bliss followed Galatea and disarmed the crowd with her voice rather than her legs although she did dance a little to the music as well. Accompanied by the JJs, a pair of brothers on the drums and piano, she sang Patsy Cline's Strange and The Beatles' The Fool On The Hill. She brought a lot of emotion to her performance which struck me as she seemed to pour her soul into her music. She wasn't quite able to coax the same volume out of the PA system that She She Dance did, but she obviously dug deep. An enticing performer, I look forward to seeing her again.

Neil Diamond came last. The impersonation portrayed an astute parody of the pop-culture giant, but I must confess to having never seen Neil Diamond live. A crowd more familiar with the hallmarks of a Diamond performance might have gotten more out of the solid Bill Chambers' performance. Still, his jokes about weed and old New York hit a few members in the audience, and his singing of one of Neil Diamond's classics while gyrating violently was a nice touch.

Very fun stuff. That's what you can expect from Ten Foot Rat Cabaret. Tickets for $10.00 can be purchased online at or at the door. Starting next month, the show will be on a Saturday night. The next show will mark their 4th Anniversary! 

Michelle DellaFave @ the Met Room

This review of Michelle DellaFave's Cool Burn at The Metropolitan Room was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Cool Burn
Starring Michelle DellaFave
Musical Director: Richie Vitale
The Metropolitan Room
34 West 22nd Street
New York, New York 10010
Reviewed 6/16/17

Michelle DellaFave looked stunning in a tight-fitting blue dress especially considering this accomplished woman appeared on Dean Martin's television series, "The Golddiggers" in the late 1960s. Her voice shocked the audience too as Michelle consistently displayed an impressive range that once prompted Dean to say, "this girl can sing!" Her show, Cool Burn, covered a number of stalwart choices that were popular during the 60s and 70s interspersed with Michelle's off-hand wit. Transitioning as smoothly between octaves as us normal-voiced people change channels on a television, Michelle reminded us she was indeed human by often introducing her songs in various voices such as a Russian accent for the comical classic, "Vodka." She was joined on stage by the Richie Vitale Quartet, which included a pianist, double bass, trumpet, and drummer. Richie, on the trumpet, directed the show and dazzled with a number of trumpet solos to which DellaFave danced.

Joined during the first song by a pair of young, male, well-dressed backup singers, Michelle shined from the moment she stepped on stage. She set the tone for the night with the heartfelt classic, "Am I The Same Girl" (Barbara Acklin, 1968). During the song, Michelle's backup singers danced and played off of her in mock flirtation as she asked them, "Why don't you stop and think it over?" While the dance moves drew a few hoots and hollers from the crowd, they remained on the classy side of suggestive. Richie Vitale also entertained the audience with the first of many trumpet solos to which Michelle danced looking like she was having the time of her life.

Photo credit from  - on tour with the USO show

Photo credit from - on tour with the USO show

DellaFave credited her infectious smile and fun attitude to her father who liked Frank Sinatra. She, too, was raised in New Jersey like the great star. She really showed off her range with "At Long Last Love," a song Frank Sinatra popularized (originally written by Cole Porter in 1938). She went from sultry to aggressive as she jumped octaves in bursts. Things went along very smoothly through the first few numbers but when DellaFave slowed it down for Ella Fitzgerald's "Midnight Sun" (1957), it was a little difficult to understand her. The song had a beautiful melody, but at times she failed to sufficiently project. 

Michelle left the song behind and the genre by switching it up to the 1966 pop hit, "Got To Get You Into My Life" by The Beatles. It was a curious addition given the tone of most of the music, but fit the theme of mid-century hits. The crowd loved it too because the backup dancers came back to fight over the darling diva on stage. She sent them off, but called one of the two back with a tender, "Por Favor, I need the magic touch of your amour" ("Por Favor" by Doris Day 1965). The blend flowed well and allowed a young guitarist named Thayer who had joined in on the edge of the stage to join in for a solo duet with DellaFave. His pick danced along the guitar as Michelle presented "But Beautiful" (Nat King Cole, 1958) in a much faster pace than the original was performed.

Michelle continued to add twists and turns to her show's theme, which seemed to fit in terms of style, but not necessarily with any particular story. When she asked the audience to start snapping, I struggled to think of what song might be coming next until I recognized Michael Buble's "Fever." What a lovely way to burn indeed! The dancers came in and off stage for the next few numbers, but the young hunks' gyrations garnered special attention when Michelle toyed with them. It was fun to watch and I smirked, but she easily drew out the most laughter from the crowd with her rendition of "Vodka." Her dynamic range and off-kilter dancing made it a particularly fitting choice. It displayed her style and personality well.

For the most part, Michelle impressed with a vocal range that few other singers could match. At times this stretched her voice, but she had such depth combined with the ability to push herself that the occasional break in her voice disappeared between the throaty crescendos and high-pitched doodles. Michelle was truly a wonder to enjoy, and her song choices seemed to fit her personality and voice. She did stray out of the theme of the 60s and recalling her time on the Dean Martin Show a little bit for some more contemporary songs, but they were good choices to share who she was and to further showcase her talent. To find out more about Michelle, visit her website at

Judi Mark at Don't Tell Mama

This review of Judi Mark's I Feel A Song Coming On at Don't Tell Mama was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

I Feel A Song Coming On
Starring Judi Mark
Musical Director: Phil Hinton
Don't Tell Mama
343 West 46th Street
New York, New York 10036
Reviewed 5/24/17

Dressed in an enchanting evening gown, Judi Mark held us in awe on Wednesday at Don' t Tell Mama with her story, told through music, I Feel A Song Coming On. Fortunately, for a few sailors in for Fleet Week, they came at the right time. Judi Mark put on a superb show bringing a bit of all her different skills to the stage to pay tribute to Old Broadway and Hollywood. By her own admission, Judi Mark has worn a lot of hats during her years in New York City and most of these have related in some way to the performing arts. We had the fortunate privilege of enjoying the skills that brought and kept her in New York as well as her delightful presence and charm.

Pre-show at Don't Tell Mama

Pre-show at Don't Tell Mama

Judi displayed a great deal of charisma that engaged the crowd. Through various subtle efforts such as greeting us upon entering and starting her show from the back of the room, we were part of the show early and often. It gave me an implicit sense of genial familiarity which extended further for some patrons who Judi seemed to genuinely recognize. These clever touches focused our attention on Judi easily and with sensual hand gestures and stunning hip movements, she helped keep our attention riveted on her as we wondered which hat she would wear next.

Judi glided from song to song with her sense of comedic timing. While she told most of her tributes to greats through song, she did also give a little background in between in a typically self-deprecating manner. She started with the story of a Frank Sinatra bodyguard whom she knew when she first moved to New York City. He told her she needed to pick one path (singing, acting, or dancing) and stick with it, but she said she didn't want to choose just one. She wanted to do it "My Way" (referencing a particularly famous Frank Sinatra song). From this, she asked us to sing along to "Welcome To My World" by Ray Winkler/John Hathcock enticing us to join her in the chorus. She went from this into a pair of medleys where she showed off her exceptional dancing skill.

Before the second of these two medleys, Judi did admit she may have worn too many hats while listing the various roles she has played since moving to New York City. Too many to keep track of, but then she took out a "Fruit Hat" for Carmen Miranda's "Chiquita Banana" song. Potentially most accurately described as a combination of salsa and samba, Judi shimmered like a brilliant butterfly during the medley which started with a series of excellent dance numbers proving her skill as a dancer. I was ready to sign up for one of her classes thoroughly convinced she could teach even me. She may have only received the "Neck Of The Chicken" (Jimmy McHugh/Frank Loesser) growing up, but she definitely proved she deserves more now. The dance number on that was only topped by an even better one on the song "The Pits" by Howard Danzinger.

The performance flowed well as Judi expertly transitioned between songs and chuckle-worthy stories including a monologue called "Friendly Skies" by Bobby Holder. The combination of the various artistic forms allowed her to portray a classy and sincere atmosphere along with her well-timed coy gestures and good use of the stage. Additionally, she did a great job of allowing her band to work off her smooth melodies by maintaining her confident pace. She took to the stage surrounded by an elegant accompaniment of a pianist, bassist, and jazz drummer. The pianist, Phil Hinton, and son on the drums, John Hinton, were stupendous, while Jennifer Vincent, with the Double Bass, provided a delectably steady and passionate tone. She was a truly sophisticated choice by Phil (Judi's musical director) and Judi.

The ultimate medley about loving music really brought the whole performance together. I felt entranced by Judi's majestic moves combined with her self-assured vocals. She had a knack for catching the eyes of the men in the room, and her final number may have stolen a few hearts in the crowd. Hopefully, those sailors in the back corner didn't leave theirs behind, although I wouldn't blame them. New York has that way about it. Judi did a great job with the acting, singing, and dancing. She also handled the balance among description, story, and song well. I very much enjoyed this show. If you are interested in a stylish cabaret that is more chic than posh, and more glitz than flash, then Judi is your gal. Her tribute to Old Broadway and Hollywood will delight. For more information about this show and the performer, visit her website at 

Blake Zolfo at the Met Room

This review of Blake Zolfo in 25: A Premature Retrospective at The Metropolitan Room was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

25: A Premature Retrospective
Starring Blake Zolfo
Musical Director: Steve Schalchlin
The Metropolitan Room
34 West 22nd Street
New York, New York 10010
Reviewed 4/21/17


In his new show entitled 25!: A Premature Retrospective, Blake Zolfo showcased an impressive amount of variety in his voice while skillfully relating his own story to the audience in an artful and humble manner. Well-dressed, funny, and with an accompanist and piano to his right, Blake looked as comfortable on stage at The Metropolitan Room as if he was reclining on a beach with a martini glass tilting in the sun. Blake's "premature retrospective" evidenced both remarkable maturity and prescience. He remarked that his hard work has paid off in different ways than he imagined and related an important truth. While he may have once thought he could have it all at once, he is much more comfortable putting in the work to take it day-by-day at 25 than he was a mere decade ago when he thought he might have been further along in his career. Through brief interludes and often comical lyrics, the audience learned about the things that have driven this young performer to continue to perfect his craft.

About half of the songs Blake performed were written by Blake's accompanist, Steve Schalchlin, and these were some of the most heart-warming and personal. One of the best was a song called "Keep Me Guessing." This funny and cute tune was used to tell the story of one of Blake's past relationships. Through a variety of charming and comedic experiences, Blake learned it was important to him to be kept on his toes. Blake's ability to make stylistic jumps by performing various types of songs kept us "guessing" as to what might come next.

From the very start, Blake had us intrigued. The pair began the performance with "Only Kind Of Music" (Schalchlin), a wonderful duet which featured a surprise instrumental solo. Setting us up for smiles, Blake pulled out a plastic Kazoo. Throughout the night, he showed a consistent ability to adjust his pitch to the needs of the song. He often harmonized well with Steve when needed and broke away with melodic lyrics and robust vocalizations. The tone of the show settled in as light-hearted with Blake performing a fun song called "Triple Threat" (Schalchlin/Shapiro) about being an actor, dancer, and singer just like everyone else in New York. His humility and self-deprecating humor were never too demeaning and were offset by his easy confidence and charming smile.

Blake did also step away from the more humorous part of the show at times to communicate important messages. The first of these was about keeping one's head up despite obstacles. He finished the first short collection of songs with a sonorous version of The Beatles' "I Will" that stood out as particularly well-done. These small song sets were split by interludes about what he had learned from the experience and how it related to the next group of songs. For example, after performing "What's The Point?" (Kander/Pierce), a song and quick tap dance from his recent role in an Off-Broadway play, Kid Victory, he shared that while he learned he typically indulged in relentless preparation, he needed to simply take the risk. 

This lesson related well to searching for love in New York, and Blake combined the two for a great collection of songs that included my favorite performance of his from the night: J.D. Souther's "Faithless Love." Blake truly displayed the range of his vocal abilities with this song. It showed his depth, and the song fit nicely within the story of the show as if it was the climax. I do hope he performs more like it in the future. He followed this up with more musical-like songs as well as one by Jule Styne entitled "Make Someone Happy," which he explained is his main mission on stage and with new relationships.

All in all, I must say I am looking forward to the types of things that might be included in a future retrospective by this young and talented performer. He had an easy ability to communicate his story in a relatable way and his timing was impeccable. I think Blake would do well in additional musical roles and hopefully, when he is ready to share more important life lessons, he will have too many musicals and lessons to choose from. Thank you for a fun night at the Met Room Blake, and I'm looking forward to the next one! Blake Zolfo's 25!: A Premature Retrospective will return to The Metropolitan Room on May 25, 2017 and June 22, 2017. Both shows are at 7 p.m. and have a $20.00 cover and $25.00 food/drink minimum. To make reservations, go to or call 212-206-0440.

For more reviews check out Applause! Applause!

Charlie Romo at the Metropolitan Room

This review of Charlie Romo & Friends at The Metropolitan Room was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Charlie Romo & Friends
Starring Charlie Romo
With Michelle DellaFave & Marissa Mulder
The Metropolitan Room
34 West 22nd Street
New York, New York 10010
Reviewed 3/31/17

Charlie Romo held his 21st birthday party at The Metropolitan Room, and all his friends showed up for this talented, devoted, and gracious performer. On stage, we had some of the most exceptional and experienced performers that can be assembled on a Friday night in Manhattan. Above all, Charlie stood out. Starting from a jazzy "Just In Time," Charlie jolted his fantastic following into ecstatic fervor and then held them in suspense with smart stylistic switches across genres that played off the central theme of both his youth and his passion. This culminated with his tribute to 21-year-old Buddy Holly in an especially emotional delivery of "American Pie," which had the entire crowd singing along. Charlie bared all his ambition in connecting the dots between the stars of the past and himself early and often. He called continuously on the great Bobby Darin, and we were lucky enough to have two representatives of his estate in attendance who loaned him a lucky charm for the evening in the form of the singer's gold lighter.

Charlie's own nostalgia-laden anecdotes aside, the adoration and loyalty that he inspires hung in the air like whisky lingers on the tongue. While Charlie got his first taste of whisky on stage courtesy of his manager, Bernie, he definitely paid attention to his loyal friends. The name of the show, Charlie Romo & Friends, fit well because Charlie gave thanks and effusing praise to everyone who had helped him make it this far. This included the Barry Levitt Quartet led by the pianist Barry Levitt whose "Two Of A Kind" duet with Charlie was a fun song I'm glad he added to the program for the evening. While Barry's voice didn't match Charlie's, he did sound like a softer Burt Bacharach. When Charlie called on each by name to perform a quick solo, the three others in the quartet also showcased their ability including newcomer Jon Burr. The other two mainstays, Ronnie Zito and Jack Cavari, were two more examples of Charlie's connection to his inspirations. Jack Cavari had been Frank Sinatra's guitarist, and Ronnie Zito was Bobby Darin's first drummer. 

Charlie's flair and emotion were matched by only one extraordinary performer who also had a connection to the past. Michelle DellaFave had worked with Dean Martin, and the two sung a medley of songs Dean Martin made famous after starting with "You're Just In Love." The line, "You need someone who's older" drew laughter from the audience as Michelle deliberately appeared to be offering herself up to Charlie. Michelle also performed a sultry "Sway" and stunned us with an impressive rendition of "That's Amore." Michelle's dance moves also added a tad more pizazz to the performance.

Alongside Michelle and coming out earlier in the evening to perform with Charlie was Marissa Mulder. Compared to both Charlie and Michelle, Marissa did not have the same level of talent or stage presence. Her voice was cutesy and lyrical. She was incapable of singing "It's Only A Paper Moon" through in tune or at an even pitch. Charlie stood by to let her sing this song on her own since it appeared to be one of her particular favorites. She did better with "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," which I think showcased the talent that resulted in her getting an invitation to sing in the first place. 

The only truly negative aspect of the show, besides Marissa Mulder, were the dancers known as the Romettes.  They were good dancers, but they didn't seem to match the theme of the rest of the evening which appeared geared to old-fashioned family fun. During the love song, "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You," Charlie seemed to glare at the pretty, young dancers a little too much before telling them, jokingly, to meet him in his dressing room after the show. Yes, they were pretty, but Charlie could have ignored them and let them do their thing. I feel this would have had a more positive effect on the audience. As it turned out, his staring only made the audience uncomfortable resulting in their becoming subdued for the first time during an otherwise upbeat evening.

That all said, Charlie has something special to offer with his voice and personality. I'm sure it took a lot of work to get to this point but the plain truth is Charlie deserves the praise he has earned. The unquestionable reality is that this young man really does have the level of talent necessary to become a big star and the entire room believed it after he sang his first song. I hope he continues to put in the effort to be great and to be one of the good guys because that is what his following sees in him. Not only does he have talent, but he really has a knack for gaining one's appreciation when on stage. It's as if he is talking to an old friend. Part of that was because he was in a crowd of mostly old friends, but he brings his personality off-stage too. He did a great job of making people feel welcomed. His genuine behavior and natural confidence make for a dynamic pair, especially when combined into one 21-year-old singer with a wonderful voice. Happy Birthday again, Charlie!  

Charlie Romo & Friends will return to The Metropolitan Room on Sunday, May 14, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. and on Sunday, October 8, 2017 at 4:00 p.m. General Admission is $24.00 per person with a $25.00 Food/Beverage Minimum. For more information about Charlie Romo, visit his website at

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