Who Doesn’t Love Movies?!
Wednesday, February 16th, 2011
by Alix Cohen
Eric Michael Gillett watched MGM change its billboard outside his bedroom window starting
at age seven. He always loved the movies. There were two twenty‐five‐cent double‐bill
theaters in his Los Angeles neighborhood andThe Culver, “which at fifty cents for a single
feature, felt like a palace.” Widescreen is like exploring an attic box, remembering and
Opening with a wry, subdued, version ofThe Motion Picture Ball (Joseph H. Santly/Howard
Johnson), Gillett gives us jaunty character inflection from Mae West tocentral casting studiohead
Yiddish, as if authoring an earlyPage Six.
Medleys that follow include what may be the gentlest, most lilting rendition ofMoon River
(Henry Mancini/Johnny Mercer) outside of Audrey Hepburn’s plaintive one on the fire
escape. Just when you imagine you know where you are (or when) come songs from
Limelight, Ragtime, It Happened in Brooklynand a Jean Simmons’ film called The Happy
Endingwhich is now on half the audience’s Netflix lists. The song, What Are You Doing the
Rest of Your Life?(Michele Legrand/Marilyn & Alan Bergman) is a classic, its original
employment a revelation. Gillett imbues it with affectation free emotional fragility.
This is an evening of unembarrassed feelings, unabashedly expressed. Gillett’s eyes close, his
head tilts “You were my favorite love/That was my favorite year,” he croons wistfully
(Michele Brourman/Karen Gottlieb, cut from the film of the same name), more than usually
utilizing the upper range of his beautiful tenor voice. Sighs can be heard.
Brief parodies of other ostensibly cut songs with lyrics likeI’ve been to parties with pigs, but
Dances with Wolves are the worst—(Barry Kleinbort) sounded unfortunately Catskills. As did
chestnut musical arrangements ofThree Coins in the Fountain (Jule Styne/ Sammy Cahn) and,
later, the Theme fromThe Valley of the Dolls (Dory & Andre Previn); two pretty songs with
universal sentiments that might’ve fared better.
The rest of the program, happily, is filled with pleasing surprises. A couple of numbers from
Disney films are performed so pitch‐perfectly one fully expects harmonizing bluebirds to
appear on Gillett’s shoulder. Instead, he settles for Musical Director/pianist, Jeff Cubeta,
whoseWishing Well (from Snow White) comes close to animation. Ah ha ha ha ha, he trills.
Songs by the inestimable Craig Carnelia, perhaps Gillett’s alter ego, and Amanda McBroom/
Gordon Hunt are dedicated to Walter Brennan, “the most honored actor in Academy Award
history.” Did you know that? These are highlights, the specificity such that Gillett seems to
morph effortlessly into affecting characters (a forte).
Keith Carradine’s acoustic guitar seduction,I’m Easy from the film, Nashville and Shel
Silverstein’sI’m Checkin’ Out originally voiced by Meryl Streep in Postcards from the Edge are,
respectively, tender as all get out and a hoot. Gillett’s elastic notes sashay around the ballad
with country freshness and snap back for the hee‐haw, thrum‐da‐da‐thrum, two‐step
anthem. Oooo Ha! He has a joyful flair for this. Graceful closure arrives with the rarely heard
title song,Widescreen (Rupert Holmes) and Fred Kander’s favorite lyric, At the Rialto (John
Kander/Fred Ebb). Both have great charm.
A boy “in search of the constants” who will always be “sitting in the dark with popcorn and
ju ju beads,” Eric Michael Gillett is up front and personal with his choices. Recollections and
snippets of collected film trivia pepper this performance. Gillett has a skilled vocal
instrument, an actor’s approach to interpretation and genuine sweetness, but it’s ultimately
his honesty that draws us in. Win or lose, nothing on that stage is just there for effect. This is
not just a talented man, but an eminently likeable one, with whom spending time just
happens to be entertaining.