New York Minutes
nytheatre.com review by David Fuller
April 1, 2006
The star of the current New York Minutes, subtitled "A revue of the songs of John Wallowitch," is in fact the lyrics of the songs themselves. For one hour at the Duplex, TOSOS II presents them, sung by three engaging performers under the direction of Mark Finley (who also conceived the evening), with piano accompaniment by Ray Fellman (who also served as music director). These performers, Robert Locke, Jolie Meshbesher and Chris Weikel, are a likeable trio, but with varied vocal talents. The conceit of the show, three strangers meeting at a New York bar, relating to each other through song, and departing, seems cute but almost forced. I got it but I wonder whether we really needed it. Still, it is a way to bring some of the over one thousand songs of the prolific Wallowich to light.
Though I had heard of Mr. Wallowitch, I could not recall any songs. But then, I rarely get to the cabaret circuit, where evidently he has been championed by such luminaries as Tony Bennett and Dixie Carter. The composer certainly writes in a wide range, as evidenced by the program, which runs from searching ballad to comic up-tempo. In general, I think the trio at the Duplex fares best when tackling Wallowitch’s lighter material. This may be because, for me, Wallowitch is better at the light stuff. His ballad melodies tend towards the generic and the lyrics predictable. But when he lets his rhyming genius shine in such numbers as “Cosmetic Surgery,” it is quite fun:
They have altered their beaks
And they've lifted their cheeks
And now everyone speaks
In society's cliques
I thought instantly of Noel Coward and then in the program I learned that Wallowitch has indeed been compared to Coward. This is apt, as certainly the lyrics are the thing with both composers.
Fellman plays a terrific piano, Weikel has an engaging baritone and kind of steals the show, Locke is a real charmer with a John Davidson demeanor, and Meshbesher knows how to sell a song, though she has the weakest voice. I would have liked to have heard more close harmony, but regardless, Wallowitch’s words shine through. For that, it is well worth the two drink minimum.