The Kritzerland shows at Sterling’s Upstairs at The Federal are always a fun and tuneful evening. The 62nd edition on Sunday October 18 was no exception. One of the real pleasures of the show is producer/host Bruce Kimmel’s introductions to the songs which usually contain some arcane factoids about the song and the show it was from or the singer who introduced it or the songwriters who wrote it. There are often big laughs contained in the patter; this time it all began with the tale of the girdle. The shows are always personal—Kimmel picks the songs and the singers, researches and writes the commentary; but this latest edition, entitled The Shows of My Life, was even more personal. Kimmel took us on a stroll down his memory lane, telling us about his first encounter with the musicals that came to shape his life and career in the theatre and the recording business. His memories didn’t just consist of the big shows everyone knows—South Pacific, Gypsy, Guys and Dolls—but little known flops like Greenwillow and All American. He shared his memories of purchasing LPs through the Columbia House Record Club, at Wallichs Music City at Sunset and Vine, and even at his local A&P where he once bought the soundtrack to Gigi only to find out inside was the original cast album of the infamous flop Whoop-Up.
One of the evening’s biggest laugh getters was Kimmel’s “Dueling Fools” in which he sang “What Kind of Fool Am I?” from Stop the World, I Want to Get Off as both the original Littlechap (Anthony Newley) as well as the National Tour Littlechap (Joel Grey). Earlier in the show Kimmel channeled his inner Ethel Merman and teamed up with teen dynamo Sami Staitman on a delightful run through “Together Wherever We Go.” Staitman also returned to give a different twist to “I Enjoy Being a Girl,” from Flower Drum Song which the audience discovered was Kimmel’s favorite Rodgers and Hammerstein score. Shannon Warne had gotten the show off to a wonderful start by singing “A Wonderful Guy. She also did a lovely job with the beautiful “Is It Really Me?” from 110 in the Shade. Adrienne Visnic brought her great comic sensibility to such classics as “Ooh, My Feet” from The Most Happy Fella and “If I Were a Bell” from Guys and Dolls. But she really had the audience applauding her for her rapid fire delivery of “Men,” a comic gem from Whoop-Up.
One of the guest artists for the show was Barry Pearl who had appeared on Broadway as a child actor in Bye Bye Birdie where he was lectured nightly by Paul Lynde about “Kids.” Here he turned the tables by performing the song to Sam Herbert. The one deviation Kimmel offered from his Broadway memories was having the night’s second guest artist, Richard Sherman, sing “For Now, For Always,” a song he had written for the Disney film The Parent Trap—the one with two Hayley Mills, not two Lindsay Lohans please. William Martinez, new to this viewer, proved to be a formidable crooner and sang some truly lovely ballads—“Our Language of Love” from Irma La Douce and the haunting “Once Upon a Time” from All American. Kerry O’Malley sang another poignant ballad, “Never Will I Marry” from Greenwillow and proved she had plenty of spunk with “I Ain’t Down Yet” from The Unsinkable Molly Brown. She closed out the night with a rousing “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” Musical director James Lent provided accompaniment on piano throughout the show.