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Reviews Archives - Tom Toce Music

New York Sheet Music Society Review


Hopelessly in Love: The Lyrics of Tom Toce

Saturday, June 8, 2013

By Jerry Osterberg

To paraphrase one of Tom Toce’s most delightful songs, the words ‘You Make Us Smile’ are surely consistent with the lyricist’s intention. But Tom also made us laugh, recall sweet memories, and, perhaps more than anything else, feel. His magnificent creations are filled with tenderness, love, joy, heart, and are capable of bringing an audience to tears.

And so it was that NYSMS members had the good fortune of being present at a private performance of a well- received production that had graced the stage of the Metropolitan Room several times during the 2012-2013 cabaret year. Although this was not the only time that one of our directors has produced a show just for us, it must certainly be one of the few instances when a member presented his own program of superb music.

When one appreciates the number of composers Tom Toce has written with, and the exceptionally qualified singers on stage: Carole Bufford, Jack Donahue, Jennifer Sheehan and Hilary Gardner, in addition to excellent musicians such as Musical Director Matthew Martin Ward, bassist Boots Maleson, and the program’s Director, Peter Napolitano, the entertaining afternoon was a virtual music hall revue.

The entire company opened with two numbers “Listen” (Zina Goldrich) and “Hopelessly in Love” (Douglas J. Cohen), making for a lively, bouncy beginning in which Carole, Jack and Jennifer traded lines back and forth while achieving some gorgeous harmony. Jennifer’s first solo “Say You’ll Remember” (Peter Millrose), conveyed a warmth and wistfulness that was touching. Having heard her sing “You Make Me Laugh” (Shelly Markham) on three occasions, accompanied by her fantastic smile, I can’t imagine anyone else doing this audience pleaser much better. In “The Wrong Man” (Douglas J. Cohen), with a “Tara’s Theme” introduction by Mathew Martin Ward, Jennifer’s character imagines her life as if it were a movie, perhaps one by Hitchcock, but more likely starring Peter Lorre rather than Cary Grant.

Jack Donahue, who has personality to spare, got to perform “Michael’s Song” (David K. Israel), a Broadway style show-stopper if there ever was one, building to a dramatic crescendo that stilled the room. His best performance, without a doubt, was “After All” (Kim Oler), a romantic tear-jerker tale of a man speaking to his lover, reminding her What really matters is the life I share with you. Jack’s rendition was clearly a tour de force. For something completely different, he sang “Got to Learn to Emote” (Jeff Lazarus), a hysterical West Indian type tune, which allowed the audience to participate (as if they could have resisted) whenever the line sha la la la appeared. The audible foot tapping might have easily migrated to a Conga line!

Carole Bufford, a natural comedienne, was joined by the entire crew in “Bye-bye, Aloha, Yo!” (Jeff Lazarus). Her very amusing persona was a perfect match to the lyrics. There were moments when the presentation had the feel of a Big Band number from the 1940’s. Further along the spectrum, Carole demonstrated that she also has the wherewithal to put over a formidable ballad in “Rid of You” (Allan Garb), about a smart woman who survives a breakup and comes back with more confidence than she had before. Carole returned to her forte with a hilarious “Shalom, Santa” (Douglas J. Cohen), who as “Margaret Guggenheim Kelly” told us ‘My daddy is a lapsed Catholic and my mamma is a cultural Jew.

The remarkably talented Hilary Gardner made a special guest appearance, performing “The Night I Fell in Love With Paris,” with words and music by Tom Toce, a sweetly romantic tune with the potential of reaching the star status of a cabaret and recording standard. The lovely song, perhaps more personal to the songwriter than not, has all the sensitivity of a gentle lullaby. It was beautifully rendered by Ms. Gardner. Throughout the entire program were several excellent examples of effective harmony, enhanced from time to time by Matthew Martin Ward and Boots Maleson, two of the most talented and sought-after musicians in the business. The last song “Ask for the World,” (Tom Toce), was performed in that same vein. The inspired arrangement provided a strong foundation for the cast to underscore the meaning of the lyrics most effectively.

All and all, it was a wonderful way to end another successful season. It’s gratifying to realize that there are busy and talented creative artists in our midst like Tom Toce. And how could the NYSMS not feel good about the fact that so many excellent performers have given generously of their time so that our members can enjoy a pleasurable Saturday afternoon in New York City? As full- fledged citizens in the world of popular music, we should feel proud that our stage continues to represent one of just a few low- risk venues for aspiring professionals to be heard.


Hopelessly In Love Review in Cabaret Scenes

Hopelessly In Love Review

Cabaret Scenes
October 29, 2012

Carole J. Bufford and Jennifer Sheehan, two of the brightest lights in a youthful wave of cabaret, joined the excellent Jack Donahue and special guest star Andrea Marcovicci (Shelly Markham on piano) to perform Hopelessly in Love: The Lyrics of Tom Toce. A wide variety of material ranged from ballads to comic turns, from a duet that sounded, both lyrically and musically, like classic Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme (“Glad We Got Away”; music, Kim Oler), to a swing number with contemporary lyrics (“Bye-bye, Aloha, Yo!”;  music: Jeff Lazarus) in a nifty arrangement by Musical Director/pianist Matthew Martin Ward. (Boots Maleson on bass.)

Highlights were: “Michael’s Song” (music: David K. Israel), a gorgeous, melancholy ballad with deft lyrics phrased like halting thought, with a nuanced vocal by Donahue; the very clever “Shalom, Santa” (music: Douglas J. Cohen)—“My daddy is a lapsed Catholic and my mama is a cultural Jew”—ostensibly sung by “Margaret Koogleman Kelly,” here enacted by Bufford with just the right irony; “You Believe in Me” (music: Zina Goldrich), a sweet “thank you” which would be timeless but for the use of—ouch—“Bloomingdale’s”—-sung with ingénue credibility and lovely restraint by Sheehan; and “Ask for the World” (music: Toce), a mother’s advice embodied somewhere between a lullaby and an anthem, performed by the company.

If anyone could sell “The Night I Fell in Love with Paris” it would be Marcovicci, who put her whole heart and soul into it, but instead of describing the poetic City of Light, the “character” sings “it has museums, it has parks.” By the time we got to the payoff, there had been no romance at all to substantiate emotion.

Vocals were all first rate. The talented singers were expressive and lyrically aware. Between many numbers, Ward sang short phrases from earlier songs. The attempt at bridging was unnecessary and made no sense.

(Editor’s Note: During several performances of this revue, there were different guests stars and Marissa Mulder replaced Jennifer Sheehan inthe final perforamnces, which had to be rescheduled.)

Alix Cohen

Review of Hopelessly In Love on

Hopelessly In Love: The Lyrics of Tom Toce

Metropolitan Room

October 10 and 28; November 10, 2012

By Robert Reviews (source)

“Hopelessly in Love” is a triple pun. It can mean, roughly, “besotted with the right person,” or “inevitably involved with the wrong one,” or “determined to be in love no matter what.” The touching and witty lyrics of Tom Toce deal with all sides of this tri-partite title concept, as virtually all of the numbers in this 19-song set make very clear. The music to each of these songs is by 12 different composers, including two each by Toce himself, Kim Oler, and Jeff Lazarus, and three each by Douglas J. Cohen and Zina Goldrich. Thus the variety is greater in the music than in the words. Three stalwart singers, nicely backed by musical director Matthew Martin Ward on piano and Boots Maleson on bass, also contribute their inimitable styles toward mostly avoiding any sense of sameness to the presentation.

Vocalists Carol J. Bufford, Jack Donahue and Jennifer Sheehan open the show promisingly with two trios: “Listen” (composed by Goldrich) and “Hopelessly in Love” (Cohen). Sheehan, who continues to dazzle with the range and variety of her vocals and lyric interpretations beyond her years, goes on to deliver four memorable solos. The first is a haunting number with music by Peter Millrose, “Say You’ll Remember.”  Lamenting one more lost love, Toce’s beautiful lyrics implore, “Please don’t let me be the one you regret/ Say that you’ll remember so that I can forget.” Sheehan also drew the second-best song in the show, “You Make Me Laugh” (Shelly Markham), extolling this too-often- overlooked key element of a successful lasting relationship. In “The Wrong Man” (Cohen), the singer’s life and romance are based on the movies, but she dreams of Cary Grant and ends up with Peter Lorre. “You Believe in Me” (Goldrich) could have been just another song about a life view based on fairy tales, but Sheehan infuses it with something more.

On the other hand, Bufford and Donahue, in their solos at least, often seem more concerned with big delivery than in exploring lyrics, even playing to a non-existent balcony in this intimate venue. On satirical numbers this overblown approach can be effective. Bufford scores with “Bye-Bye, Aloha, Yo!” (Lazarus), celebrating a woman’s cutting and running after a bad romance instead of staying in it “to keep the friggin’ score,” as she used to do. She also elicited the laughs in “Shalom, Santa” (Cohen), a ditty about the dilemma of a daughter of a “lapsed Catholic and a cultural Jew” leading to Toce’s droll conclusion: “I wish I had a faith I could have faith in.” Donahue dances and sings the calypso “Got to Learn to Emote” (Lazarus) with great panache. But seeing his somewhat strident delivery of “That’s What I Like About the Rain” (Alan Wolpert), a sad ballad about sky water purging “till none of the memories remain,” I kept thinking to myself, “Why is this man smiling?” On “After All” (Oler), which he otherwise sang straight, in a deep baritone, he couldn’t resist a jarring Barry Manilow-style big finish.

Donahue offers the added distraction of moving around too much on a small stage. I doubt that director Peter Napolitano had anything to do with this since he sensibly has those performers who are not singing the current number sit quietly at a table right beside the stage and moving nimbly onto and off the stage as needed. Also, the order of songs and the interspersing of ballads and uptempo numbers makes perfect sense and a fluid presentation. Napolitano may be complicit, however, in pianist Ward’s singing one-line introductions to many of the songs; these are often unintelligible, always raspy, and seem unrelated to the song we’re about to hear. In any event they are wildly unnecessary.

Unquestionably, highlight of the performance I saw was guest artist Andrea Marcovicci singing “The Night I Fell in Love with Paris,” also composed by Toce, which is the best song in the show. (The guest artist at each performance is kept secret until show time, but she or he always sings this song.) In it, Toce pays deserved tribute to the multitude of I Love You/I Love Paris songs of the past, setting it under “a croissant moon” on June 21, the longest day of he year. But he also updates those chestnuts with modern references to American British and Irish rock (Nirvana, U2). Sitting still on a stool, Marcovicci, accompanied by Markham, ignored none of the number’s nuances and understatedly offered a master class in selling a song.

Toce himself appears only at the end of the set to offer thanks and introduce his collaborators on stage, his director, guest artist and those composers who happen to be in the audience.