Eric Michael Gillett

New York

Washington DC

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 twentyfivecent doublebill

theaters in his Los Angeles neighborhood and The 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 of The Motion Picture Ball (Joseph H. Santly/Howard

Johnson), Gillett gives us jaunty character inflection from Mae West to central casting studiohead

Yiddish, as if authoring an early Page Six.

Medleys that follow include what may be the gentlest, most lilting rendition of Moon 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 Brooklyn and a Jean Simmons’ film called The Happy

Ending which 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 like I’ve been to parties with pigs, but

Dances with Wolves are the worst—(Barry Kleinbort) sounded unfortunately Catskills. As did

chestnut musical arrangements of Three Coins in the Fountain (Jule Styne/ Sammy Cahn) and,

later, the Theme from The 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 pitchperfectly one fully expects harmonizing bluebirds to

appear on Gillett’s shoulder. Instead, he settles for Musical Director/pianist, Jeff Cubeta,

whose Wishing 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’s I’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 heehaw, thrumdadathrum, twostep

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.