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Theater Reviews and Commentary from Karen Salkin

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Last week-end, I was lucky enough to attend the special one-year anniversary celebration of Sterling's Upstairs at Vitello's, the wonderful supper club in the Valley. I'm especially attached to them because I had just celebrated my own one-year anniversary writing for this site (or e-zine, as I call it.) Only, I didn't have a dinner and show for mine; it was more like leftovers and summer re-runs.

First up was a fabulous dinner of Vitello's food.. To look at the evening with fresh eyes, I hadn't recently looked at the review that I wrote of this venue last year, when it had just opened. So, I was pleasantly surprised by how good the food was. I remembered that I liked it, but this time, I was very impressed with it. Lauren, my upscale friend from New York, loved it, too.

The appetizer was the most delicious bruschetta that I've ever had. Then came perfect Italian salad. I would have licked the plate, if I weren't in public. I had the Veal Marsala entree, while Lauren chose the Chicken Picatta. Both were excellent.

A word here about our waiter. Last year, I had lucked out in getting the very pleasant Phil. The same was true this year, and he remembered me right off the bat. (And, no, it wasn't because I had been difficult; it was because Phil's an aware guy.)

The room was absolutely packed. There was a pleasant buzz in the air as dinner wound-down. A nice feature of this club is that they won't take orders during the show, and ask you to get there with enough time to enjoy your meal before it starts, which I feel is unusually respectful to the performers. (Possibly because Michael Sterling, the proprietor, has been in musical theatre since his younger days with his mentor and muse, Rosemary Clooney!) We did get to enjoy our spumoni dessert, though, which went right along with the Italian medley at the top of the show.

3 people
Three of a Kind: Gelo Francisco, Annie Nepmuceno, Bonifacio Deoso.

The act this time was the trio Three of a Kind. The two gents and one lady all had beautiful voices, separately and together. They were really upbeat, too, and had a good little banter going that drew the audience in. (Oh, you may inquire as to why they're called Three of a Kind when it's both sexes; it's because they're all Filipino, I'm assuming. Or singers. Or nice people. I actually don't have a definitive answer, I just realized.)

They performed a mix of Broadway tunes, pop, and classics, so there was something for every taste. My favorite was an a cappella version of Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror," with "Why God, Why?" from "Miss Saigon" a close second.

Sterling's surprised us all with a Chardonney toast to their anniversary at the end, which made it that much more festive. I can't wait to celebrate with them again next year. Salud!

Sterling's Upstairs At Vitello's 4349 Tujunga Ave. Studio City 818-981-3077


I read my own column last week, and Fractured Broadway 2 at the El Portal Theatre in NoHo sounded so good that I just had to attend it myself! (I had been to the inaugural show last year, so I knew the fun I was in for.)

It was basically the same format as last year; singers doing numbers that they wouldn't be cast for (such as a female doing a male song, etc.), only this year it was just one ninety-minute act, which made the after-show reception come sooner.

Photo credit: Ed Krieger

The truth is that I'm so over-booked, as Mr. X says all the time, that I had to arrive late, but timed it for what I thought would be intermission. Since there was none, I had to mortifyingly take my seat, (down front, no less!) during the show. So, if you saw me do that, please do not judge me to be rude, because I had no idea that that would be the situation. I had thought I would slip into the back row, if I arrived during the first act.

So, regretfully, I missed half the program. But I'm thrilled that I was there to enjoy what I consider to be the two head-liners, Bruce Vilanche and Joan Ryan.

Bruce was as funny as usual, and did an entertaining number from "Avenue Q," which I've never seen. He had a puppet that looked like him, with his signature red glasses. Cute. Coincidentally, when I got home, Bruce was on "Celerity Fit Club," which I had no idea about since I've never watched it. But I was actually jealous of him for that.

Photo credit: Ed Krieger

[Sidebar: Sad note on my career aspirations--I used to say that I want to get famous enough to guest on "Love Boat." Now, I just want to get famous enough to be on Celebrity Fit Club!]

The real treat of the night was someone I had never seen before, Joan Ryan. Michael Sterling of the above mentioned eponymous club, had touted her before to me, but I was blown away witnessing her performance for myself. She sang "Being Alive" from one of my most hated shows, "Company," and the performance was brilliant. I didn't have a program, but I knew it had to be the last number because no one could top it. I met her afterwards, and she seemed lovely, as well.

So, now I know that the next time she headlines at Sterling's, I will try my best to be in the audience for that show, only this time, I'll make sure not to double-book.

El Portal Theatre 5269 Lankershim Blvd. North Hollywood 

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