By Tulis McCall — Tony Danza is a menche. He has boyish charm, a heart of gold, and a voice that makes you understand the meaning of the word “croon”. This is an act. Tony Danza’s act. Not that he doesn’t possess all of the above, but what he really is is a man of substance. He knows where he is going and pretty certain how he is going to get there. He has parlayed a successful television career Taxi and Who’s The Boss into a career as a cabaret performer and stage performer. And combined with the musicianship of his very fine band, John Oddo –Musical Director, Piano, Arrangements, Dave Shoup – Guitar, John Arbo –Bass, Ed Caccavale -Drums, Danza makes it all look easy.
That he loves to perform is obvious. His one liners are old but we laugh anyway. “I am returning to the Carlyle by popular demand. I demanded it and it worked.” He is old enough to have a Senior Citizen MTA card – not that he ever uses it – and to have rubbed shoulders with Sammy Cahn and Frank Sinatra. That he respects writers and composers is also obvious. Not a song is performed without a an acknowledgement of its creators. And when I say an acknowledgement, I don’t mean Danza reads the names off a piece of paper – he knows these people. He respects these people.
That he is a story-teller – check. From the history of the Carlyle (he Googled it), to the luck breaks he had meeting and working with his musical idols, to the thrill of watching his son ( one of four grown children) be a father to HIS son – and do it so much better. The stories are rich and plentiful (and the teeniest bit long).
Danza is old school.
That he loves to sing is the icing on the cake – because he can, and very well indeed. He first dazzles us with his ability to scat and swing. he quickly shifts into second gear with an invitation to fall in love – That’s All ( Brandt and Haymes) – and we do, just like that. It Was A Very Good Year (Drake) reminds us that the kid we met on Taxi has grown up and, like all of us, has the worn tires to prove it. Angel Eyes brings some of us back to the first time Frank Sinatra retired – it was his finale. Danza follows this with what must be the hokiest song ever The House I live In (Allen/Robinson) – and he gets away with it because he makes us believe that he believes every word. Out comes a ukulele – and a lovely one at that – for Comes Love (Brown and Stept). We settle into a nice smooth canter to bring the evening home.
There are a few more swingers and the unexpectedly poignant I don’t Remember Every Growing Up (Butler). People of a certain age nod, and nod some more.
With all the tricks he has up his sleeve, Danza could be slick as a hot skillet. Once he gets a feel for the room, however, he gently lets down that wall and talks heart to heart. Or sings. He is the kind of guy that could grow on you, and one you will look for on the street where he lives somewhere in New York. When you see him you will not gush or fawn. You will shout, “Yo Tony!” and he will “Yo!” back. A smile and a “Yo!” – that is his act. Based on truth.
For his last two nights I can only hope that he relaxes enough to take advantage of a Carlyle tradition in which every performer I have seen over nearly a decade takes part. Stick around and schmooze with us. Just long enough to remember we are your posse. That’s all. That’s all. Try it – take it from me. I know of which I speak.
Tony Danza: Standards and Stories – Café Carlyle Through March 30. Performances will take place Tuesday –Saturday at 8:45pm. Weekday pricing begins at $95 per person / Bar Seating:$75/ Premium Seating: $145. Weekend pricing begins at $120 per person / Bar Seating: $95/Premium Seating: $170. Reservations can be made online via www.Ticketweb.com. .Café Carlyle is located in The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel (35 East 76th Street, at Madison Avenue)