Euan Morton’s Retro Sounds at The Players Club

February 12, 2014 Updated: February 12, 2014

The Scottish singer/actor Euan Morton became famous playing Boy George in the musical “Taboo” in London and on Broadway, for which he was nominated for most theater awards, including the Olivier and the Tony. He recently kicked off the Live from Gramercy Park cabaret series at The Players Club (at 16 Gramercy Park South).

The style of music was completely different from Boy George’s blue-eyed soul sounds. At the Player’s Club, Morton was singing songs from the Great American Songbook (mostly from the 1920’s and 30’s) backed by Grandpa Musselman & His Syncopators, a six-piece group playing in an early jazz style. The name “Grandpa” is a joke since they are all young Manhattan School of Music graduates. The sound of the group, though, was similar to what you might hear at Preservation Hall in New Orleans. The group is led by Matt Musselman on trombone and has Vince Nero on saxophone, Russell Moore on trumpet, Dan Peck on tuba, Bryan Reeder (who also arranges) on piano and Will Clark on drums.

They began with an upbeat “I’ll See You In My Dreams” followed by a lyrical “Stardust” with a trombone solo by Matt Musselman.  “It Had to Be You” featured the tuba (an instrument that was replaced by the bass when the swing era began).

The Romberg/Hammerstein “Softly, As In a Morning Sunrise” was conceived as a ballad in the operetta “The New Moon” (which was made into a Nelson Eddy/Jeanette McDonald musical) but the tune has long been a jazz favorite by Sonny Rollins among others. Morton and his musicians took a swing approach, which was quite successful. He was more restrained on “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” and “What’ll I Do.” The best piece in the show may have been one that didn’t fit in thematically:  the Scottish hymn “Abide With Me.”

The versatile Morton sounded completely at home with the songs and the retro band. While he has fine comic timing, what he didn’t have at the show was amusing patter. Thus, some of the jokes fell flat. He doesn’t have to stick to singing (which he does very well) but he should find a writer (or get a new one if he already has one).

This was an auspicious beginning of the cabaret series at The Players Club. For Information about other Live From Gramercy Park Cabaret events, go to www.stageworksmedia.com

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