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 

George Tabori's Mein Kampf at Theater for the New City

This review of George Tabori's Mein Kampf at Theater For The New City was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Mein Kampf
Written by George Tabori
Directed by Manfred Bormann
Theater For The New City
155 First Avenue
New York, New York 10003
Reviewed 5/4/17

George Tabori's Mein Kampf represents the playwright's "darkly satirical" side. The irony of this poignant play about Hitler's youth in Vienna draws on Tabori's cleverly crafted circumstances to entice laughs despite the reality of how long past events once unfolded. The play paints Hitler as an incapable louse assisted in a flophouse (a residence for the poor) by an old and ugly Jewish man, Shlomo Herzl, who inadvertently allows the creation of the future monster. While it is a little unsettling to recall how Tabori seems to portray Hitler as imminently damnable, reflecting on the play may be the only reason I find it discomforting. The themes are portrayed in a well-contrasted manner presenting the futility of one's attempts to be a good person. Despite the fact that it may be light on realism, how can one not pause to ponder? The seriousness of the subject of Hitler causes lingering fear and a bitter taste in hopefully everyone. Regardless, Jewish himself, George Tabori's comical version of Hitler's youth may have been an effective way of framing events in an effort to make it easier to cope with the reality of World War II's atrocities. Tabori presents the starkness of evil alongside humor possibly partially as a means of reconciliation and also as a forewarning even if the humor is mixed with unconcealed hate.

The play is split into two acts that explore the fragile thread we walk as humans in different ways by following the life of the old, ugly Jewish man, Shlomo Herzl (Jon Freda); more often called "Shlomo." Shlomo opens with an intense discussion about fulfilling God's purpose with Lobkowitz (G.W. Reed), a man who believes himself to be God (after an accident involving head trauma). This exchange presents Shlomo, a man who sells Bibles, as a person who spreads the word of God regardless of denomination. Shlomo also questions the exercise, pitches a story about his life as a pathological liar who doomed his father as "Mein Kampf." Here we meet the embodiment of evil, young Hitler (Omri Kadim), who steps in and says "that's it" to the name and surprising the other two who thought the conversation was private. At first, Hitler doesn't seem much more than a little arrogant. He and Shlomo argue about proper manners, and he concedes to re-enter the room after knocking. As the two characters grow closer together, however, Hitler grows more despotic as Shlomo assumes a fatherly role to the young would-be artist who likes painting the twilight. For example, before Hitler's interview for attending the Academy of Fine Arts, Shlomo shines Hitler's shoes for him because Hitler is despondent about being unable to fix the mistake of having used brown instead of black polish. Only Shlomo can't fix everything because when Hitler runs out of the house, he forgets his pants. If only it had been as simple as putting on pants!

Hitler seems every bit as corruptible, impressionable, and paranoid as he needs to be from the start of his time in Vienna. In contrast to this representation of budding evil, Shlomo interacts with another character in the first act who shirks the pursuit of wealth: the excellent Andrea Lynn Green's Gretchen. While Hitler appears flamboyant and filled with ambition, Gretchen lacks greed or desire. When Shlomo questions why it is that she entreats an ugly, old man like him to devote his life to her, she responds simply. Her wealthy parents committed suicide because their life was just too perfect, they were too beautiful and rich. As a result, she intends to be with him, because he is both ugly and poor. As a metaphor for goodness, it makes sense, but during the play, it does come off as more than a bit awkward and slightly fantastical especially when Gretchen cuts Shlomo's toenails. In addition, it does make me wonder if all beautiful people that are interested in money are evil. That being said, the scene closed the first act on a high note. The four main actors that appeared were all very good. Jon Freda and Omri Kadim had tremendous rapport, working well together as Shlomo and Hitler respectively. All four had to contend with numerous distractions such as sirens and dogs barking but never once flinched.

Unfortunately, act two disappointed because not only did it add new layers to the plot rather than closing threads, the acting didn't match the intensity of the piece. Cordis Heard as Frau Death had some difficulty with lines and timing which seemed to throw off Freda as Shlomo as well. In addition, Jeff Burchfield as Himmlisch, had slight difficulty maintaining composure while violently pulling apart a chicken. He contained his shaking as he wielded a sharp knife with what seemed like an actual, raw chicken, but it had me worried. It may have been a better decision to mime the chopping, but luckily no one was hurt and he completed his soliloquy. These factors contributed to distract from the momentum that the first act developed. The major threads did tie rather neatly when Shlomo continued his luckless dooming of the innocent such as when his lies as a child doomed his father. In act two, in an effort to be a good person, Shlomo diverts Frau Death's attention in an effort to stave off Hitler's death. Is Shlomo, therefore, the one responsible for the death of everyone in World War II or are we, the audience, at fault for not stepping in? Tabori seems to challenge the audience directly and subtly during act two by asking us why we didn't do anything to stop evil in its tracks. After saving Hitler from death, Shlomo remarks to Death that perhaps the purpose of poetry is to "chat up death and stall" which could stand as a metaphor for the human condition diverting its attention as time slips away. It's the second time that Shlomo makes reference to the purpose of poetry during the play, but he changes the meaning a third time after Hitler "goes into politics." With Hitler demonstrating to Shlomo the man that he will become, Shlomo states that the purpose of poetry may, therefore, be "the entertainment of the wicked."

Considering the first iterations of Greek plays were considered forms of poems, have we the wicked, who only spectate as events unfold, been entertained? Yes. Overall, the cast and crew did a great job marred only slightly by some rough spots that made it difficult to fully appreciate the play's depth in the immediate aftermath of viewing it. I really liked the set design and for the most part, the acting was solid. The play contains a multitude of complex themes. While it doesn't seem to be concerned with discovering how it is that people become evil, it does present effective questioning of life and death and the meaning of life. If you come to understand how evil seeps in on men with even the purest and innocent of intentions, then you will be completely out of luck. If you're looking to be entertained by the hapless efforts of two strangers in Vienna with comedy that leans toward slapstick and the bonus of a resonantly original take on human existence, then Mein Kampf is definitely for you. See at Theater for the New City on May 14th, 3 p.m. or May 16-19th at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $18.00 for adults and $15.00 for students/seniors. They are available for purchase on the website, Enjoy!

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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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