Daniel Reichard’s “It’s You I Like”
First, a confession. Mr. Rogers, the famed creator and host of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, was “after my time,” so I have little frame of reference when it comes to his legendary television show. I also pre-date Romper Room. My TV show, once we could afford to have a television—ours had a screen the size of a fishbowl that was centered in a piece of furniture that was roughly the size of a small apartment—was Ding Dong School with Miss Frances. I am sure there must have been songs galore on the program, but at gunpoint I could not tell you the name of, or hum even the smallest part of one of them. However, the songs that Fred Rogers wrote for his eponymous show, are apparently etched in the memory of singer Daniel Reichard and much of the audience that packed Birdland for his new show, It’s You I Like. The repertoire consists entirely of Rogers’ originals and I came to all but a couple of them, cold.
Reichard is perhaps best known for his performance as Bob Gaudio in Jersey Boys, which he played on Broadway and on the National tour. He has assembled an excellent group of musicians to back him in his return to cabaret: music director Micha Gilad on piano, Alex Wyatt on drums, Brian Holtz on bass, Allison Shearer on woodwinds, with a special appearance by Eduardo Belo on cello. Their playing cannot be faulted and added immeasurably to the evening. Reichard is an immensely likable, charming presence on stage with an expressive voice and sparkling delivery, but I am not sure even Olivier could have pulled off his change to trademark sweater and sneakers for the body of the show.
With its musical and theatrical pedigree, the show should have been a delight and I feel like Scrooge or The Muppet Show’s Statler and Waldorf to have to issue a reluctant “bah humbug” to the proceedings. On Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood the songs had the benefit of being showcased one at a time and were, of course, directed to an audience of children so the simplicity of the lyrics and melodies was a given. In this misguided tribute, 17 of them were put together in a 75-minute show which only served to underscore the lack of variation, subtlety, and musical invention. It was all just too much—or to be more precise, too little. Add to that the incessant positivity of the messages and it all blurred together into what amounted to a childish Ted Talk—a “Teddy Talk” if you will. Minus the nostalgia which many of the audience brought to the project, I was left regretting the waste of the singer’s talent and the brilliant musicianship on such an insubstantial endeavor and on, to be honest, such lame material.
His patter was a saving grace throughout, and his decidedly adult memories and stories were a welcome change, but once the music started on any song, forced innocence replaced his sharply observed spoken comments to sometimes jarring effect. By the time the songs of which I was aware (“Won’t You Be My Neighbor” and “It’s You I Like”) showed up, they were lost in the saccharine surroundings. There were a couple of sing-alongs as well—never a good thing under the best of circumstances, and wincingly, teeth-achingly twee here. No matter how well arranged and played the music was, it was never a match for the weak lyrics and melodies. The evening ended with an uptempo, “It’s Such a Good Feeling,” which initially promised a little spark with which to close, but it quickly descended into more of the same bland, junior self-help messaging of every other song. If you find the line, “Every day is special because you are a part of it” to be profound, then this might be the show for you. It was not the show for me. But Daniel Reichard might be the singer for me in different, more adult circumstances. I hope the next time nostalgia and self-help take a back seat to a glimpse into his life in 2023.
Presented at Birdland, 315 W. 44th St., NYC, July 31, 2023.
About the Author
Gerry Geddes has conceived and directed a number of musical revues—including the Bistro- and MAC Award-winning "Monday in the Dark with George" and "Put On Your Saturday Suit-Words & Music by Jimmy Webb"—and directed many cabaret artists, including André De Shields, Helen Baldassare, Darius de Haas, and drag artist Julia Van Cartier. He directs "The David Drumgold Variety Show," currently in residence at Manhattan Movement & Arts Center, and has produced a number of recordings, including two Bistro-winning CDs. He’s taught vocal performance at The New School, NYU, and London’s Goldsmith’s College and continues to conduct private workshops and master classes. As a writer and critic, he has covered New York’s performing arts scene for over 40 years in both local and national publications; his lyrics have been sung by several cabaret and recording artists. Gerry is an artist in residence at Pangea, and a regular contributor to the podcast “Troubadours & Raconteurs.” He just completed a memoir of his life in NYC called “Didn’t I Ever Tell You This?”