Sunday, December 11, 2011

Applause! Applause! Review of Michael Vaccaro's "Back To Broadway" by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Michael Vaccaro in a show entitled "Back To Broadway" at Eighty Eight's was written and published by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and appeared in Volume I, Issue 4 (February, 1998) of Applause! Applause!

"Back To Broadway" - Michael Vaccaro
Eighty Eight's (228 West 10th Street, NYC)
Reviewed 2/1/98 at 10:30 p.m.

The flyer announcing this show reports that "He couldn't make it in Hollywood, so he came crawlin' Back to Broadway", an apparent reference to Michael Vaccaro's having moved back to New York City after spending eight years in Los Angeles searching for stardom. Vaccaro is full of energy, is very charismatic and has a good rapport with his audience.

"Back To Broadway" is a fun show which features many of the Broadway show tunes that were Vaccaro's favorites growing up in New York during the 1960's and 1970's. Jeff Klitz, the musical director, doubles as a back-up singer with Anne Lauterbach, who is so talented, I cannot wait to catch her in her own show. She even tap dances during a rendition of "You're Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile" from "Annie"! Klitz and Lauterbach are integral parts of many numbers. Their vocal talents made Vaccaro's rendition of "Hard Candy Christmas" (from "The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas") and "When I Get My Name In Lights" (from "Legs Diamond") my favorite numbers in the show.

"Back to Broadway" still needs a lot of work before it has the potential to be a vehicle to help get Michael Vaccaro to Broadway. The other numbers which worked well were: "St. Bridget" (from "Mame"); "Freddy, My Love" (from "Grease"); "A Boy Like That" (from "West Side Story"); "Little Lamb" (from "Gypsy"); "Lida Rose" (from "The Music Man"); "Bali Ha'i" (from "South Pacific"); "Come Down From The Tree" (from "Once On This Island") and "Tomorrow" (from "Annie"). After Michael Vaccaro left the stage, Jeff Klitz and Anne Lauterbach performed a spirited rendition of "Proud Mary" as their special good-bye to the audience. What an unexpected pleasure!

Despite these wonderful moments and some good props, there were times that Vaccaro failed to treat his material with the respect I thought it deserved. His pronunciation of the word "smile" in "You're Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile" came across as if he was making fun of the song. Then there were times when I felt that Vaccaro's selection of material was flawed. He insists on singing "Frank Mills" from "Hair", which he claims is his favorite song. I have no idea why. It certainly doesn't help to feature his vocal talent and contains no especially meaningful lyrics. He even tells a story about the manager of a comedy club who hired him as a singer praising his abilities and telling him that he "was going to be a star." After Vaccaro sang "Frank Mills" there, the same guy came up to him and said "Hey, kid. You're fired!" While you may suspect other reasons why that manager fired Vaccaro after he sang "Frank Mills", it is my suspicion that he was fired for inflicting that inane song on yet another audience.

Michael Vaccaro is enjoyable to watch and is clearly full of love for his chosen career and for his loyal fans who continue to support him. After having seen his audition videotape, I came to this show with low expectations. After seeing him perform live, I have new respect for his talent and his unique style of presentation. Call for reservations to see "Back To Broadway" which will be performed again on Sunday, March 1, 1998 at 10:30 p.m.. There are some brilliant moments here you should not miss!

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