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Paulanne Simmons

Celebrating the Words the Lyrics of Tom Toce

Hopelessly in Love: the lyrics of Tom Toce
Metropolitan Room
34 West 22nd St., Between 5th and 6th Avenues
Three performances in Oct. & Nov.
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Nov. 10, 201

Working with a variety of composers, lyricist Tom Toce is an important presence in musical theater and cabaret. And by the end of Hopelessly in Love, his show at Metropolitan Room, it’s easy to see why. The show is directed by 2012 MAC Award winner Peter Napolitano with musical direction by Matthew Martin Ward and Boots Maleson on bass. It features three accomplished cabaret artist: Carole J. Bufford, Jack Donahue and Marissa Mulder. At special guest artist appeared at each performance.

Toce’s lyrics are often insightful: “Do we only judge a journey by the way that it ends?” or cynical: “I don’t believe in silver linings/I just believe in clouds.” But at times they can be side-splitting funny, as in “Shalom, Santa.” “My Daddy is a lapsed Catholic and my mother is a cultural Jew” go the lyrics, which conclude with the lament, “I wish I had a faith I could have faith in.”

Toce certainly has a way with words and clever rhymes. He also knows there’s nothing like details (suede boots, the velvet vest) to create a mood of nostalgia or regret. When the wonderful KT Sullivan (the special guest on the show’s last night) sang “The Night I Fell in Love With Paris,” it’s doubtful anyone in the audience who has ever been in that city could not close his or her eyes and, listening to the lyrics, imagine being in that city one more time.

The sassy Bufford and sweet Mulder complement each other perfectly. In the choice of songs they sang and their renditions, it soon becomes apparent that Mulder is the girl who didn’t know better and Bufford is the girl who should have known better. Donahue stands out whether he is singing by himself or with Bufford or Mulder.

Toce is fortunate and wise in his choice of composers. Whether it’s for a ballad or comedy song, words and music enhance each other and always work together.

There’s an old story that tells of an encounter between the wife of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein. Apparently an overly enthusiastic admirer walked over to Mrs. Kern and said, “Oh, your husband is the man who wrote ‘Old Man River.’” Hearing this, Mrs. Hammerstein said, “No, her husband wrote da-da-da-dum. My husband wrote Old man river.”
Let’s hear it for the lyricists!

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