Thursday, October 6, 2011
Christine Andreas and Robert Kimball open the new Dutch Treat Club season
Singing a few lyrics from “Autumn in New York,” cabaret star KT Sullivan opened the 107th season of Dutch Treat Club luncheons Tuesday at the National Arts Club in Gramercy Park. The Club, whose members make their living primarily in the arts, meets every Tuesday from October to May, hosted by Sullivan, its president, and offers a performance by a popular singer, wisdom from a noted speaker, good food and great company. I’ve been a member since 1996.
This week’s entertainer was singer/actress Christine Andreas (a member since 1997), who most recently starred as Jacqueline in the Broadway revival of La Cage aux Folles (and who in the 1990s played a schizophrenic, homicidal psychiatrist on my favorite soap, “Another World.”) She sang several songs from her upcoming show “Two for the Road,” which she’ll perform with her husband, composer Martin Silvestri (in photo with Andreas), at 3 p.m. Oct. 9 at the Irvington (NY) Town Hall Theater. All proceeds will go to Ability Beyond Disability, an organization that benefits children with special needs. Andreas has a personal interest in this charity -- her son Mac is 24 “but will always be 4,” she said.
Accompanied by her husband on piano, she opened with her show’s title song, then shared some stories. Six years ago when she was asked to play the mother in a national tour of The Light in the Piazza, she hesitated, not just because she hadn’t toured in ages, but also because it would mean leaving Mac for more than a year.
“There I was playing a special needs mother letting go and that’s just what I was,” she said, adding that she made the decision to do the tour because she had already placed the then 18-year-old Mac in a group home where he was happy.
In remembrance of visiting so many states on tour, she and Silvestri sang “Rhode Island Is Famous for You” -- you know that fun song by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz with its listing of different geographical specialties -- “the camp chair in New Hampshire,” “pencils come from Pennsylvania,” ”vests from West Virginia” and from our neighbor, “New Jersey gives us glue.” A cute song, delightfully done.
She also sang a lovely number called “Is This the Way It Feels to Love?” from a new musical called The Countess of Storyville, which features music by Silvestri and lyrics by Joel Higgins that will have a reading at The Players Theatre later this month. She closed with “Fly Me to the Moon.”
For more information about her benefit show, billed as “a personal scrapbook of musical souvenirs and memories,” visit www.irvingtontheater.com.
Our opening day speaker was musical theatre historian and DTC member since 1976 Robert Kimball who reflected on his recent three-year stint as a Tony Award nominator. Interestingly, Kimball had an indirect connection to the Dutch Treat Club long before he was a member. As an orphan living in a school dorm, he used to listen to newscaster Lowell Thomas on the radio; Thomas was president of the DTC from 1978-81.
Kimball, who is known in part for his comprehensive books on the lyrics of American Songbook writers, joked that Zero Mostel threatened to send him a bill because those weighty books kept breaking Mostel’s coffee tables.
Sounding much like Richard Maltby Jr. did in his theatre talk at last month’s 15th anniversary celebration of Broadway Blessing, Kimball remembered the Great While Way of the 1940s, with its 70-some theatres where more than 200 new shows opened annually. Now, with fewer than 40 theatres left, the Broadway League talks excitedly about creating a record if 40 shows open in a year.
“The only new record being set is for ticket prices,” he said.
When asked if the American musical of today is a reflection of our culture, he replied sadly, “I’m afraid so. There are not a lot of great songs being written for the theatre now.”