Directed by Barry Kleinbort
Musical Direction by Paul Greenwood
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited
The remarkable Anita Gillette, now an octogenarian, returns to the Metropolitan Room for a two-night gig with her sexagenarian friend Harold Sanditen. The pair – separated by a span of twenty years – transcends, nay transforms, the notion that age differences affect deep friendship and the misconception that age affects the quality of vocal performance. Like Harold and Maude before them, this “unlikely” pair deftly exploits the history of their relationship from its beginning to the present to completely captivate their audience and barnstorm the petite stage at the iconic Metropolitan Room with a polished and engaging program.
Their program consists of a well-crafted mix of songs. There are very few of the American Songbook standards found in many cabaret song lists. Instead Ms. Gillette and Mr. Sanditen choose to offer a refreshing list of songs that – in one way or another – relate to their “Harold and Broad” theme of the vicissitudes of an apparent unlikely friendship in a sometimes less than forgiving world. Some stand alone; others come in pairs or in a grouping of three; and there is even a “LIKE” medley arranged by musical director Paul Greenwood.
The “couple” breeze through “Let’s Eat Home” (Dave Frishberg/Barry Kleinbort); “Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries” (Ray Henderson/Lew Brown); “The Way You Look Tonight” (Jerome Kern/Dorothy Fields); and the rarely performed “Coffee (In a Cardboard Cup” (John Kander/Fred Ebb). The pairings match perfectly and either complement each other in theme or counterpoint one another in both theme and style. “Let Yourself Go” (Irving Berlin) for example is cleverly paired with “I Could Have Danced All Night” (Frederick Loewe/Alan Jay Lerner). And “Something to Talk About” (Shirley Eikhard) and “Who Cares” (George Gershwin/Ira Gershwin) explores the dynamics of a relationship that give interlopers “a little mystery to figure out.”
On their own, Ms. Gillette and Mr. Sanditen gave their unique interpretations of “At the Codfish Ball” (Lew Pollack/Sidney Mitchell/Barry Kleinbort – sung by Harold); “Rosie the Riveter” (Redd Evans/John Jacob Loeb – sung by Anita); “Johnny’s Song/Imagine” (Kurt Weill/Paul Green and John Lennon – sung by Harold); and Anita’s “revenge” medley “Goody Goody/Gonna Get Along Without Ya Now/Hall Hath No Fury” (Matt Melneck/Johnny Mercer; Milton Kellem; Nicholas Brodszky/Sammy Cahn).
Ms. Gillette’s luscious voice continues to resonate with rich tonal qualities that capture the nuances in every note that she interprets. Her vocal range allows her to tackle the most challenging of songs and provide unique and pleasing stylings for each. Additionally, her extensive Broadway and other stage experience enables her to know precisely how to effectively sell a song. Ms. Gillette’s voice blends superbly – and often seductively – with Mr. Sanditen’s lush baritone voice. Although he started singing professionally rather recently, he interprets his song choices with a blend of uniqueness and successful stylings.
Ms. Gillette and Mr. Sanditen, under Barry Kleinbort’s caring direction, are accompanied by musical director Paul Greenwood on piano, Ritt Hann on bass, and John Redsecker on drums.
“Harold and Broad” will be performed in London on November 1st through the 3rd and return to Manhattan at Don’t Tell Mama on December 3rd and 10th.