The long tradition of variety shows was affectionately recalled in a program of entertainment at the Friars Club last night (May 17, 3017). Produced by Robin Lane, the show presented in the Milton Berle Room at the club featured comedy, song, music and even a magician, the sort of bill that once typified vaudeville.
The tone was set by Mike Fine as MC, who in his wry comedy style twitted the audience, which he teasingly said was the star of the evening. He playfully joked about those he introduced, and unleashed some gags of his own. Example “A woman asked me to make love to her in the worst way. That’s the only way I know how.”
The “headliner” topping the bill was comic Bob Greenberg, who has a gift for certain impersonations. Portly, he got a laugh saying he resembled New Jersey Governor Christie, which he does. He did a dead-on, very funny impression of Curly of the Three Stooges. He also gave a convincing impression of Alfred Hitchcock, another of Lou Costello and one of Oliver Hardy.
I have reviewed Shana Farr in various venues, and once again, in this setting, she sang luminously, giving meaning to “Moon River” and the Noël Coward song “If Love Were All.” She had fun with a sexy delivery of “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.” As usual, Farr looked great, this time wearing a colorful form-fitting gown.
Danny Bacher combined singing with his instrumental skill. For example, he smoothly sang “I’m Lucky to Be Me,” and entertained playing his soprano sax. Bacher is excellent with his jazz riffs on the instrument, from which he elicits sounds ranging from mellow to complex.
From the easy conversation by Mike Maione when he took the stage, you wouldn’t think he could do magic tricks. But after some humorous comments as he connected with this audience, he did some puzzling bits of magic. The most interesting one consisted of his “socks sorter box”, from which he drew assorted socks, which he strung on a line. He called up a helper from the audience, who placed the socks in a bag. Then presto, she randomly withdrew two socks, and it turned out that when Maione pulled up his trousers he was wearing a match for each sock she selected. You might dub the trick socko.
There was an easy-going ambience in the room for the event, which was preceded by a dinner. Being in the Milton Berle Room made me think of a news item this week reporting a lawsuit by a comedian who claimed that his jokes were stolen. Given that Berle was jokingly known as “the thief of bad gags,” I wondered what he would have thought about the case. At the Friars Club, 57 East 55th Street. Reviewed May 18, 2017.