Jana Robbins, one of a handful of cabaret refugees of canceled engagements due to the sudden closing of Arci's Place in Manhattan, has found a home for her Cy Coleman tribute at Danny's Skylight Room March 31, April 7 and 14.
"The loss of Arci's is devastating to all of us," Robbins told Playbill On-Line. "It was a great room, and I look forward to playing there again, when they open their new place."
Rents were too high on Park Avenue, so Arci's closed its doors March 15. There are plans to move to the West Side, closer to the theatre district. Robbins moved the final Arci's date of One Hell of a Ride! (March 31) to Danny's Skylight Room, 346 W 46th St., and she was invited to add two more dates, April 7 and 14. All shows are at 8:45 PM. For reservations, call (212) 265-8133. There is a $20 cover charge and a $10 per table minimum.
Robbins, currently standing by for both Valerie Harper and Michele Lee in Broadway's The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, sings the songs of Cy Coleman in the new cabaret show. It began March 10 at Arci's. One Hell of a Ride!, the title of which is drawn from Coleman and Dorothy Fields' musical, Seesaw, has Doyle Newmeyer as musical director, accompanying on piano. DJ Salisbury directs.
Robbins' link to composer Coleman goes back to 1976 when she stood by for the women in I Love My Wife on Broadway.
"I've been singing his jazz standards for years — 'The Best is Yet to Come,' 'You Fascinate Me So,' 'Witchcraft,'" Robbins told Playbill On-Line. The actress who has made a career out of standing by or understudying for ladies such as Tyne Daly in Gypsy and Linda Lavin in Allergist's Wife, said that one of the things she dreamed of when she came to New York from Johnstown, PA, years ago, was playing in big nightclubs where jazz and pop flowed as freely as champagne.
Robbins said Coleman — who was first a classical player, then a jazz player, then a pop and Broadway composer — bridges the gap between club jazz and Broadway.
"His music fits my voice," Robbins said. She appreciates "how well he writes for women — women living on the edge, women wanting to make something better out of their lives, women with an outer strength but an inner vulnerability. I relate to these women."
The evening, subtitled The Songs of Cy Coleman, includes such early songs as "When in Rome," "You Fascinate Me So" and "Moment of Madness," plus Little Me's "Don't Ask a Lady" and songs from Seesaw, City of Angels, Sweet Charity and more.
This is Robbins' third cabaret act in Manhattan, and this time around she's focusing on Coleman's work rather than her own personal journey.
"I very specifically wanted to back out and not have it be about me," she said. "It's about Cy Coleman, but to be intimate with my audience I speak about my connection to his music."
(For trivia buffs, Cy Coleman in uniquely connected to the company of Allergist's Wife: Michele Lee starred in Seesaw on Broadway, Valerie Harper appeared in the ensemble of Wildcat, and Charles Busch played an aging Belle Poitrine in a Nederlander-produced Little Me in the Detroit area.)
On Broadway, Robbins appeared as Mazeppa in the Tyne Daly revival of Gypsy, and in Crimes of the Heart, Romance/Romance and Good News. She has played regional and touring houses all over the country. At the age of 21, she played Aldonza in Man of La Mancha, opposite Jose Ferrer.
— By Kenneth Jones