I have two words for you: Hal Linden. I have two more: CALL NOW. This is an evening you do NOT want to miss. This is so friggin’ excellent it is stupid.
Those of us who have a memory of the TV show, Barney Miller, will be pleased to see an old friend in the flesh to whom time has been kind and who is eager to invade our hearts once again. Those who have no such memory will not be at a disadvantage, because Linden is a performer who loves his work, and his work is to entertain with style.
Accompanied by the largest band I have ever seen at the Carlyle – there are seven musicians – Linden delivers the goods. The evening is about memories of course because Linden is home. A Bronx baby, he began his career as a musician and played the requisite gigs in the Catskills and dozens of other bandstands. Eventually, however, the stage pulled him into the footlights.
Linden drifts in an out of a narrative. His first noted success – and he tells us more than once that the “flops” in a person’s career are more the rule than the exception – was Bells Are Ringing opposite Judy Holliday. The Music Man road show was a near miss. The Rothschilds earned him a Tony in 1971. This was back when he had to put grey INTO his hair.
The stories, however, fade quickly because of the music. Linden is indeed a Music Man. While the stage may have claimed him, it never knocked the music out of him. His Ya Got Trouble (Meredith Wilson) is precise and unapologetic. The idea of a kid using a word like “swell” becomes horrifying when Linden tells the tale. Mack The Knife (Kurt Weill, Mark Blitzstein, Bertolt Brecht) is a sensual invitation to murder most delicious.
Linden indulges himself by playing the clarinet and treats us to a knock out Bye Bye Blues as well as a glorious medley of Benny Goodman tunes. This is where the band is given its head and bolts out of the barn. You feel the years vanish, 1938 is in the air and Linden is the band leader.
The show winds down with a formal nod to nostalgia, and once again Linden’s storytelling transforms music into magic. With him as a guide, we collectively remember our first apartments and the bookcases of bricks and boards. The Hungry Years makes us walk the streets with our young selves and experience our innocence, not to mention our idiocy. But Linden can only take so much nostalgia, because he lives in the present, thus the elegant truth of The Best of Times Is Now. He salutes both himself and the rest of us – and gets the entire audience to clink glass – by inserting his own lyrics into I’m Still Here. His final number Late In Life (Aaron Schroeder/David Grazer) lifts the roof off the joint.
Late in life
It’s never to late in life
To reach for a childhood dream
And find that dream still waiting
It’s never too late
To leave the shadows and find the sun
Tell the world that you’re not quite done
You’ve just begun
To live a lot and to love someone
It’s never too late
Hal Linden is vibrant, joyful, talented and gracious. Someone should put this guy in another show. We need more of him. Right here in River City. And PS – the first dance is mine.
Stop reading and pick up the phone. Give yourself a gift this holiday weekend.
Here’s a sneak peak: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWfoTnTMt2A
Musical Director (and childhood friend of Linden): Arthur Azenzer, bass Brian Nelepka, drums Julie Jacobs, keyboard Carolina Calvache, saxophone Lisa Parrott, trumpet Jamie Dauber, trombone Deborah Weisz.
Hal Linden Live in Concert – Performances will take place Tuesday – Friday at 8:45pm; and Saturday at 8:45pm and I 0:45pm. Reservations made by phone at 212.744.1600 are $70 ($120 for premium seating, $50 for bar seating) Tuesday – Thursday & Saturday late show; and $80 ($130 for premium seating, $60 for bar seating) on Friday and Saturday. Reservations made online at www.ticketweb.com are $65 ($115 for premium seating) Tuesday – Thursday & Saturday late show; and $75 ($125 for premium seating) on Friday and Saturday. Cafe Carlyle is located in The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel (35 East 76th Street, at Madison Avenue).