WIDESCREEN: Songs From & About the Movies
With the Academy Awards just 10 days away, the movies are on a lot of people's minds, but the big screen has long been an obsession for the cabaret singer Eric Michael Gillett. In his beautifully considered and thorouglhy engaging new show, WIDESCREEN: Songs From & About the Movies, at Feinstein's at the Loews Regency, Gillett finds many a new (and old) way to share his passion.
Eric Michael Gillett
While Gillett has made his name in clubs, on Broadway (where his credits include Kiss Me, Kate and Sweet Smell of Success), and in the world of the circus -- both as a longtime ringmaster of Ringling Bros. and the current director of the Big Apple Circus' Dance On -- he comes by his love of the movies naturally, having grown up in Culver City, just blocks from the MGM lot.
Here, he expresses his decades-long romance with the big screen in many ways, from quoting old movie lines (including a priceless recreation of two scenes from All About Eve) to a spirited rendition of Craig Carnelia's salute to Hollywood, "Old Movies," to Barry Kleinbort's clever medley of supposedly "forgotten" movie themes.
A remarkable interpreter with an actor's training, Gillett soars highest when performing character-driven and story songs, such as Carnelia's "Blood on the Moon," about an actor looking back on his life with pride and regret; Amanda McBroom and Gordon Hunt's gorgeous "Errol Flynn," in which the adult narrator remembers the life of his father, a supporting player in old Tinseltown; and, most notably, Keith Carradine's Oscar-winning "I'm Easy."
He smartly delivers some timeless standards with great skill, including "What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life," "Three Coins in the Fountain," and a truly haunting take on "Theme From Valley of the Dolls," as well as such lesser-known gems as "Somewhere in Time," "My Favorite Year" (sadly cut from the film of the same name), and "One More Hour" (from the film version of Ragtime).
And while I don't think Gillett's admittedly risky decision to include John Kander and Fred Ebb's "New York, New York" pays off, he sums his show up beautifully with one of the pair's least-known tunes, "At the Rialto" (from the musical All About Us), which is as heartfelt a tribute to the joys of moviegoing that one can wish for.