This review of Lynne Charnay: Still Going On at Don't Tell Mama was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 6 (2016) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Lynne Charnay: Still Going On
Starring Queen Lynne Charnay
Musical Director: Rolf Barnes
Special Guests: Frank Basile & John Gabriel
Don't Tell Mama
343 West 46th Street
New York, New York 10036
At 91 years of age, Lynne Charnay is still celebrating life and love. Despite being in agony, this veteran Broadway actress and Cabaret singer performed once more in front of an enthusiastic audience and a large number of devoted fans and personal friends. Elegantly dressed and easily recognizable given her blazing red hair and captivating green eyes, this charming and delightful woman, a protege of Jerry Herman and a personal friend of many stars including Dom DeLuise, has many stories to tell. As Rex Reed once said, "You learn something valuable in her presence." Her outstanding choice of song selections will impress you as will the extraordinary talent of Rolf Barnes, her musical director. As if being in the presence of Lynne Charnay were not enough, attendees were also treated to the warm, seductive and powerful voice of Frank Basile (Celeste Holm's widower), who sang "I Fell In Love With You In Paris" as a duet with her. John Gabriel, the original Professor on Gilligan's Island (and he has the pilot tape to prove it) also appeared to lend his considerable talent to the evening's program. Frank spontaneously told Lynne she was "wonderful" and "sang beautifully." When John took the stage, he told Lynne "you're magic up here" and that "every moment rings true with you."
Lynne Charnay had roles in five Broadway shows, including Julia, Jake & Uncle Joe (1961), A Family Affair (1962), The Sunday Man (1964), The Inspector General (1978), and The Grand Tour (1979). She has appeared in more off-Broadway and regional productions and revues over the decades than can be listed here and has been performing in cabaret rooms in New York City for over thirty years. In fact, one of her previous directors was Jan Wallman, who was coronated Queen of the Beaux Arts Society's annual Beaux Arts Ball in the year 2000. Lynne Charnay was coronated Queen at the 110th Annual Beaux Arts Ball, which was held this year on November 5, 2016 at Terrace On The Park. Queen Lynne Charnay was selected to be coronated Queen because she is gracious, kind, generous, even-tempered, accomplished, charming, beautiful, friendly, appreciative, and compassionate. It is easy to understand why she is held in such great esteem by those who love and respect her.
To correct an error made by John S. Wilson, in his February 11, 1985 review of Lynne Charnay's cabaret show at Panache, Ms. Charnay was not born in Odessa but was, in fact, born in New York City to parents who met in medical school in Russia and spoke Russian at home when she was a child. Her singing debut was in a summer camp production of The Mikado. Ms. Charnay attended the University of Wisconsin, Columbia University, and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She had a son with her first husband and later remarried a Frenchman, who she told me was "tall, dark and handsome." She later also appeared in an Equity Library Theater production of Cole Porter's Nymph Errant. Lynne Charnay uses her personal life and professional career to influence her song selections. She sings two songs in Russian and many songs mention Paris and the beautiful feeling you get when you are truly in love, even if those moments are fleeting. Particularly moving was her reading of the original French lyric to the very familiar "Autumn Leaves." Her song selections resonated with the older audience members. I saw more than a few of them singing along with her enjoying every moment of their time in her presence.
If I were Lynne Charnay's manager, I would put up a website detailing her accomplishments, hire a director to help her better organize her material and memorize all her lyrics, take on a publicist/agent to help her book new shows and obtain new roles, and most importantly, to maintain an e-mail distribution list of her fans so they can be told when and where she will be performing next. But perhaps that's asking too much at this point in her career. Not being tech savvy, Lynne Charnay will need to rely on friends and family to either handle those tasks themselves or to hire reliable professionals who will not take advantage of her good nature, and trusting personality. On the other hand, Lynne Charnay, with all her maturity and wisdom, has many interesting stories and insights to share. Future fans should not be denied the opportunity to experience her warmth and love. Lynne Charnay has gained perspective and, as drawn from the lyrics of some of her song selections, realizes we are only guaranteed this moment so we should live and laugh at it all. Just look at the squirrels - they save and save and what do they have in the end - nuts! So have a little fun while you can!