Nicky Romaniello (l) as Captain Billy Buck Chandler and Erin West (r) as Edythe Herbert in My One and Only at Cohoes Music Hall. Photos by Marilyn Rose
Review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray
GAIL BURNS: Well, Larry, My One and Only (MOAO) is one big, tap-happy treat at Cohoes. I had a bundle of fun!
LARRY MURRAY: There is both so much fun, and a sort of righteousness that goes with being able to make so much noise with your feet! What did you think when you first saw MOAO on the Cohoes schedule? Did the old theatre buff in you say: ”hooray and about time”?
GAIL: I was excited to have another chance to see this “all-new” Gershwin musical, which I’d seen on Broadway in 1983, with Tommy Tune and Twiggy in the leads. And I was surprised to realize it had taken me 30 years to have a second chance at it. I had very happy memories of my first encounter.
LARRY: Well so do I, Gail, I saw it in its pre-Broadway run in Boston and enjoyed it very much, but we saw very different shows.
Larry Murray: Between the two of us we have these nuns covered – I’ve lived to tell about eight years at Holy Redeemer School with its sadistic Dominican nuns, and you have seen just about every sequel to Nunsense that has come along. Is that about right or am I having to go to confession and admit I have committed two exaggerations…
Gail M. Burns: I can’t vouch for your tales of Holy Redeemer, but I do know that I have seen barely half of the currently existing shows in the Nunsense fanchise – the original Nunsense, Nuncrackers, Meshuggah-Nuns, and now Nunsensations. There are three more – Nunsense II: The Second Coming, Nunsense III: Sister Amnesia’s Country Western Jamboree, and the new Nunset Boulevard – plus a couple of spin-offs – Sister Robert Anne’s Cabaret Class and Nunsense A-Men (a drag version!)
Larry: And that’s before even mentioning the filmed episodes with Whoopi Goldberg and others having fun with the idea. But down to business. We are talking about Nunsensations in Cohoes, ably directed and choreographed by Tony Rivera, the third Nunsense production they’ve pulled off at the Cohoes Music Hall if I am not mistaken.
Gail: It is. C-R Productions mounted Meshuggah-Nuns in 2005 [Read Review] and Nuncrackers in 2008 [Read Review]. The former featured Katherine Pecevich as Mother Superior, Sister Mary Regina, and the latter Cynthia Thomas as Sister Mary Hubert, Mistress of Novices, both of whom are reprising those roles here.
Gail Burns: Looks like we pulled a theatrical double-header yesterday seeing two shows in one trip. And the first one, Five Guys Named Moe at the Cohoes Music Hall, was a musical I hadn’t seen before.
Larry Murray: The show is based on the pioneering music of Louis Jordan (1908-1975) who was known as The King of the Jukebox. While it doesn’t seem all that revolutionary today, it was the badass music of its day. It ruled its particular musical domain from the late 1930′s to the early 1950′s when rock and roll was supposedly “born.” Jordan could be considered a preemie of the genre, often topping what Billboard then called the “race” charts.
Gail: It is really sad that Louis Jordan’s recordings have fallen into semi-oblivion even after the success of this jukebox musical in London and New York in the early 1990′s. Part of the reason is undoubtedly racial. I recently enjoyed a fascinating biography of a contemporary of Jordan’s, Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915-1973) on PBS (Click Here for Program). Like Jordan, Tharpe is credited with helping to birth rock and roll and I had never heard of her. I am pretty sure I would have grown up playing their records if they had been white.
Larry: My feet are still tapping out the great melodies from the swinging 1930′s and feeding off all that tremendous energy of five, no wait, six guys on stage. The video embedded at the very top of this page showcases the original Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five as they belt out the original song that is now the title of the show.
The show begins with just one guy on stage, Nomax (Ariel Padilla), who is down and blue over a breakup with his girlfriend, Lorraine. The raucous Five Guys Named Moe reveal themselves early on as the dissolute Nomax tries to cope with the pain of his breakup. The title song allows the quintet to introduce themselves to the audience as Big Moe (Daniel Belnavis), Little Moe (Avionace), No Moe (Sheldon Henry), Four-Eyes Moe (Daryl Stewart) and Eat Moe (Marc-Sally Saint-Fleur). They then get to work lifting Nomax’s spirits.
Sometimes a girl singing songs to her guitar can be remarkably effective. Zan Strumfeld claims to be Someone New to the singer-songwriter game. Yet her skill at the craft and mature point-of-view lyrics belie her just over twenty-two years on the planet.
Someone New opens with “Keep on Lovin’ You,” which has become a favorite number in her live sets. “Friday’s Fire” is the best of a very good group of songs, serving as proof of her prowess on guitar. Zan squeezes sparks out of her strings and burns to her very soul with a cracked-note vocal, brooding over a failed relationship and snow. “Carry On” is Zan’s upbeat juggernaut of a song, tempered with guarded optimism, and made genius by the simple yet clever use of the multiple meanings of the word “down.”
His woman left him, he’s broke, and it’s almost five o’clock in the mornin’. But don’t be worryin’ ’bout our hero, Nomax. Out of Nomax’s ’30s-style radio pop arise Five Guys Named Moe. They cajole, wheedle, comfort and jazz him with the whimsical hit songs of Louis Jordan one of the most beloved songwriting talents of the twentieth century.