PITY SALUTES PITNEY
Currently at the Lyric Theatre in Hollywood, writer/director Richard Hochberg is presenting the latest entry in the burgeoning jukebox musical genre. As mentioned in Hochberg’s cabaret-styled show, Town Without Pity: the love songs of Gene Pitney, not many people other than baby boomers know this singer-songwriter of pop, rock, and country music by name. He was a low-key fellow who sported handsome boy next door looks, he wasn’t flamboyant like a hip gyrating Elvis or a hard rocking Buddy Holly. He’s best known for his stirring ballads about romance and heartbreak. Yet people of all ages know his legacy of char-topping songs: “Hello Mary Lou,” “Town without Pity,” “Liberty Vallance,” “Only love can break a heart.” and countless more. Pitney died in April 2006 so this lovely songfest performed by a quartet of dynamic young singers also serves as a heartwarming tribute.
Hochberg’s decision to have four performers in the show gives it a kicky Jersey Boy’s feel, as the guys harmonize beautifully and sparkle in duets and solo numbers as well. Between songs they take turns commenting on highlights of Pitney’s life, providing a fascinating overview. Hochberg’s no frills approach allow the fabulous music and the dynamic performers to dominate, captivating the audience throughout.
This scintillating musical treat will have you humming 1960’s standards all the way home.
GENE PITNEY COMES TO LIFE THANKS TO HOLLYWOOD CROONERS
Quick Trivia Question: Who is Gene Pitney?
Though he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 and has worked with George Jones, Burt Bacharach and the Rolling Stones, he’s relatively unknown. In a time of rebellion he maintained a conservative attitude and well-groomed presence and was the antithesis of the 1960’s mindset. Pitney was not defiant or contrarian, he was romantic and melodramatic, possessing a striking tenor and knee weakening falsetto. He created 20 toe 40 hits and despite this his name is often left out when discussing influential 1960’s musicians. Hopefully that will change with Richard Hochberg’s Town Without Pity - The love songs of Gene Pitney, which stopped by the Metropolitan Room in NYC this past weekend.
Hochberg, whose credits include The Full Monty, The Rocky Horror Show and. Disney’s High School Musical, brings Pitney’s songs to form in the most colorful of ways. Combining the sass and swing of Jersey Boys with the comedic leanings of Altar Boyz he successfully recreates the songbook of one of pop music’s most under appreciated songwriters.
Musical director Jerome Kurtenbach backs the quartet up on piano and his deft playing meld perfectly with the towering voices and harmonies of the quartet.
Bringing to life the catalog of the classic 60’s songwriter are four of Hollywood’s brightest stars. With flawless choreography, loads of charisma, pin -up good looks and sharp skilled vocals the show opens with the title track “Town Without Pity” and grabs you by the throat. If you’re not awestruck by the time the song has finished you will be a few minutes later.
NEW YORK COOL recommended TOWN WITHOUT PITY as a “must see” and though the show is only in town for a couple of days, it’s a hope that the popularity of the show catches on. These four L.A. up- and-comers posses some of the best voices in the business, dashing good looks and a freshness that deserves to be seen by more audiences. I can’t remember being this awestruck or mesmerized by a performance in a long time.
Resident media pundit - July 2007