Scott Raneri
The Marvelous Mr. Marzo…The Surprise in my Genes
Don’t Tell Mama
Oct 14 & 27, Nov 14
LAST SHOW: Saturday, December 7th @ 4:00 pm

SMART, SMART, SMART concept. SMART, SMART, SMART branding (postcard and show name). I would have gone to this show based on the show title alone but then add to that, the explanation of “A DNA test reveals family secrets that unravel the complex tapestry of a matriarch’s hidden past.” and well, I’m hooked! I will not spoil this show arc for the readers because it’s a show you must see and experience for all it’s surprises, twists and turns.

Ms. Raneri is a good singer and a really great host on stage. He’s one of those people that make you feel like you’re at his home and he’s just telling you a story. The love-child of Andy Williams and Bing Crosby, he’s at heart a crooner with a delicious lower Crosby-like register. It’s an in-tune and enjoyable voice (although he slightly pushed his vocals here and there) but this show, and Mr. Raneri is much more than the voice. It’s about the whole package!

This was a Cabaret debut, which was another marvel in-and-of-itself, thus earning his show title! Raneri comes from a  theatrical background with some impressive credits. With this in mind, it is easy to understand why some of the songs were less authentically placed (emotionally) and more theatrically “presented.” The cabaret performance technique of intimate personalization does not come easy to some theatrical performers. But then again, this is his debut Cabaret show. It seems clear that he’ll find his way to new levels of authenticity every time he steps on stage. He is imminently likable, and one suspects he will go far in this genre of performance.

With songs ranging from Sondheim to Coleman, Previn to McBroom,  Friedman and more, the show was a ride! Raneri kept his audience wondering what was coming next. His conversation with God (in song) proved hysterical…what a different take on a well-known tune. The one spoiler this reviewer will reveal is his singing of “I’ve Got a Name” (C. Fox / N. Gimbel) which was smartly used with this show concept.  And, there were many other “moments” of note with clever writing (Joey Virgo) and good direction (Mark Corpron).

The arrangements were wonderfully unique and, as I said before, the interpretations of well-known tunes was spectacular. Special mention to Music Director Brad Ross and David Ashton (woodwinds) and Marco Panascia (bass). And, unexpectedly, the slide show was very enjoyable. Brilliant!

When a debut artist is this good and has such a great team around him, small things can make a big difference. In the spirit of making a good thing even better, this reviewer offers a few critical observations for consideration about the show.

With an abundance of material and talent, the show is a bit too long. It could easily be trimmed by 2 or 3 songs. Once the the point is made, beautifully and completely (and 100% authentically), It’s time to move the show forward. Most cabaret shows come in at 55-70 minutes inclusive of all patter (the spoken words between the songs). This manifests, usually, as 15 tunes, 16 if you aren’t talking that much. This show featured 18 tunes and a lot of stage-craft, a slide show, 3 tunes sung from the piano, and a marvelous script, where the patter was as important as the songs. A little editing could go a long way, and that’s a lesson for everyone.

Another point of editing, Fred Barton’s brilliant song, “Pour Me a Man, was interpreted in not just a bawdy or sexy way, but a down right dirty presentation. This is fine if you’ve established that persona as part of the artist’s nature or character. Raneri, on the other hand, presented himself, rightfully so, as a class act. So this overt sexuality created a disconnect. It was not who he seemingly was up to that point. The late, great, Julie Wilson used to do some of the dirtiest songs ever written but she never “hit” the joke. She did more with a raised eyebrow or a lingering phrase, and it played equally as sexy but not dirty. Raneri is quite sexy and sexual, without needed to go the extra mile. There is a fine line not to be crossed, especially in such an intimate room, where the audience is much closer than you think.

The 11:00 number was GREAT and brought the whole show full circle with re-cap patter before the final tune which was, again, brilliant! This is a really well-crafted show with, just a few minor tweaks needed. The Marvelous Mr. Raneir (aka Marzo), or whoever the heck you are! It’s all good!

This show has SOLD OUT 3 performances so far. Make your reservation ASAP!