Randy Edelman: A Life in 80 Minutes
The very first contribution I made to cabaret was persuading my friend, Marc Allen Trujillo, to include Randy Edelman’s “The Laughter and the Tears” in his act and helping him to phrase and to stage it. I first heard the song on Nancy Wilson’s album, I Know I Love Him (it was later recorded by Marlena Shaw, Shirley Bassey, and Dionne Warwick) and liked it so much that I tracked down its composer’s LP of the same name. I became an immediate fan and bought any album of his I could find. A few years later when I was an “official” cabaret director I got another friend, Andre Montgomery, to include Edelman’s “Sentimental Fools” in the show we were doing.
So, I was excited to find out that Randy Edelman would be appearing at New York’s newest cabaret, Chelsea Table + Stage. I anticipated hearing at least one of those great songs during the evening and I was not disappointed. Midway through the show, Edelman included a heartfelt reading of “The Laughter and the Tears.” If I had a reservation, here and elsewhere, it was that his songs were too often presented once through and then on to the next. I wish he had allowed us to “luxuriate” in his compositions with fuller arrangements and presentations, even at the cost of a few additional numbers. Even his (arguably) biggest hit, “Weekend in New England” felt a bit truncated but was terrific, nonetheless.
In his career, Edelman morphed from singer/songwriter into accomplished and acclaimed film composer at the time that the music industry was, sadly, moving away from pop. His show represents both sides of his career with a bit too much emphasis on the movies at the expense of the recordings and songs. He did four extended medleys filled with snippets from comedies such as Ghostbusters 2, My Cousin Vinny, and Kindergarten Cop, dramas like Gettysburg, Come See the Paradise, Dragonheart, and Last of the Mohicans, and TV themes like MacGyver. With just a piano, and strung together haphazardly, the themes (particularly the comedies) had a sameness that his piano playing failed to remedy or mask.
His songs saved the day again and again, and his simple, effective vocals highlighted the charm and inventiveness of his lyrics. I particularly liked the opposites attract romance of “Uptown Uptempo Woman,” and the sad story of “My Heart Got in the Way.” He told great stories about Bing Crosby and The Carpenters to introduce “Woman on Your Arm” and “You Are the One.” His most welcome namedropping continued with Olivia Newton-John as an intro to his quite moving “If Love Is Real.” His tribute to the city of London, “My Special Friend,” was a lovely surprise. I suppose every songwriter performing around the world has created a COVID/lockdown response anthem, and Edelman was no exception, but his contribution, “Comin’ Out the Other Side” was surprisingly palatable.
He included two covers; I am always curious what great singer/songwriters pick from the works of their peers and predecessors to interpret. First was “The Concrete and the Clay” (Tommy Moeller, Brian Parker), which I had owned in its original American 45 release by Eddie Rambeau and which Edelman included on his Prime Cuts album. He managed, then and now, to convey his love for the song while his straightforward storytelling made us love it too; it was a delightful, celebratory highlight of the evening. The singer closed the show with “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II) and I cannot think of a more appropriate or more touching way to end a memorable evening of words and music.
As the lights were going down, I was already regretting the songs that were left out when he returned to perform an encore of the song that I missed the most. Following a story about Patti Labelle and Nelly, Randy Edelman left us wanting more (as well he should) with a thrilling encore of his classic, “Isn’t It a Shame.”
I hesitate to add this postscript, but I have to mention it. Edelman had an assistant who set water on the stage, greeted various audience members and, during the show, retrieved forgotten sheet music and notes from the dressing room. She may have been his wife, his sister, a friend, or just a hired hand. He never mentioned her by name and did not identify her. He referred to her as “the bitch” on at least four occasions, each time more embarrassing and awkward. The good will he engendered by his singing, playing, and songwriting, was seriously damaged by this tasteless display and he would do well to avoid it on his return to the club this month.
Presented at Chelsea Table + Stage on November 27, 2021. It will be presented again February 26, 2022. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Gerry Geddes had seen this show November 27, 2021 but due to unforeseen circumstances, he was not able to review it until now.)
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?”