Infectious fun with The Summer Club
On Monday evening, October 2, 2017, a packed house at The Venice Island Performing Arts Center in Manayunk witnessed a performance that evoked memories of two high voltage swing bands and several iconic Philly cabarets.
• Louis Prima (with Sam Butera and the Witnesses, and the precursor to Cher, Miss Keely Smith) : think “That Old Black Magic”, “Just a Gigolo”, “Zooma Zooma Angelina”, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, and more.
• The Cab Calloway Orchestra, a mainstay at Harlem’s Cotton Club. You youngsters will say, “I don’t know who that is” but you sure do! Think “Blues Brothers” and “Mini the Moocher”.
• Frank Palumbo’s “Click”, “Scioli’s”, “The Celebrity Room” and the old “Latin Casino” : all long gone.
What we all experienced was a cornucopia of talent and an entertainment eruption. My friends say of me, “Charley never saw an analogy he couldn’t torture.” I certainly don’t want to disappoint them now.
Remember when we made popcorn in a big pot on the stove? We’d put a little vegetable oil in the bottom, add just enough popcorn kernels to cover the bottom, put on lid and turn up the heat. When the popping starts, we gently shake the pot and keep shaking until the popping stops. But, it doesn’t stop. Slowly, the lid lifts off. It keeps popping. The lid falls to the floor. It keeps popping. Then, like magma, it overflows the pot.
That was Monday night!
I can hear you telling me “Get off the pot and tell us about the show!” OK, but realize you just put the popcorn into the pot.
“The Summer Clubbers” are four, very talented, young professional gentlemen. (My socks are older than they are.) They were joined by special guests, three equally talented singing ladies, Rachel Brennan, Krissie Fraelich and Colleen Hazlett and, for a comic interlude, Philly icons Jennifer Childs and Tony Braithwaite. They were backed by a seventeen piece orchestra, led by Larry Lees who created the orchestrations that gave them the big, swing band sound. For me, they were the fifth Summer Clubber.
The Summer Clubbers – Jeff Coon, JP Dunphy, Michael O’Brien, and Fran Prisco – took the stage with “Come Fly With Me”. Yes, Sinatra influences abound but how do you do swing and leave him out? No complaints from me or the audience. They teamed up again with Standing on the Corner” and “Luck Be a Lady”.
Jeff and Fran, the two big voices, moved the needle in “The Sadder But Wiser Man” and set the butter flowing with “Me and My Shadow”. The butter churn came out again when Fran and Krissy sang “Unforgettable”.
Mike and Colleen, his lovely wife (and doctor), danced and sang their way through “Cheek to Cheek” while their handsome, young son watched from the audience.
My neck chilled when Rachel and Colleen sang the bittersweet Happy Days/Get Happy.
And then the popcorn erupted when the girls resurrected the Andrews Sisters with “Boogie Woogie”.
The only thing left for me is to return to The Island for the remaining shows in 2017 – November 2nd, December 4th or 18th. I have been told the November show will likely be a different one and both December shows will be their Holiday Spectacular.
Charley is a 25 year member of SAG/AFTRA with principal roles in TV series including The Wire, The Sopranos, Law and Order, Law and Order SVU, Homicide Life on the Street and Cold Case, and films including Liberty Heights and Two Bits. His professional theater credits include Guys and Dolls (Nicely Johnson), Fiddler on the Roof (Lazar Wolf), The Wizard of Oz (Cowardly Lion), Gangstertown (Mayor Big Bill Thompson) and Niagara Falls (Mr. Poletti). Charley has also appeared in Chicago (Billy Flynn), Annie (Daddy Warbucks), Damn Yankees (Van Buren) and Annie Get Your Gun (Charlie Davenport).