Singer

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  https://www.michelledellafave.net/  - on tour with the USO show

Photo credit from https://www.michelledellafave.net/ - 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 https://www.michelledellafave.net

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

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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 www.MetropolitanRoom.com 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 https://CharlieRomo.com

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