Tim Connell in “…it’s the joy in your heart…”

February 29, 2024

Singer Tim Connell possesses such a warm, natural sound and such a thoughtful lyric delivery that it is easy to understand why he was awarded a 2023 Bistro Award for his last presentation on the intimate stage at Pangea. It is equally understandable that he wants to stretch his performing wings and embrace a broader, more varied world of music than his previous shows. But in his new show, …it’s the joy in your heart…, those two elements tend to clash more than blend, which is unfortunate because when Connell is good, he is very good.

Tim Connell

The problem is apparent at the start with his choice of pop star Jason Mraz’s “Make It Mine” from 2008 as an opener. While not exactly contemporary any longer, it is a far cry from the standards and traditional pop material that have become his forte. He never relaxes into its angular, staccato rhythms and lyrics. The follow-up, Antônio Carlos Jobim’s “Waters of March” presents a bossa nova variation of the problem; the song is not an easy one for the most seasoned of vocalists. Its mysterious, potentially haunting word clusters and images never coalesce in his tentative vocals as he grasps at identifiable phrases like the one he has chosen for the show’s title—as if they were life preservers in a sea of unfamiliar rhythms. An added irritant is that the first few numbers have extended wordless vocal passions and it is quickly obvious that they are not the singers forte.  

Things settle into an entertaining stretch with “Hit Me with a Hot Note” (Duke Ellington, Don George) as he has fun sliding into a jazz crooner role. Sting’s “Fragile” and John Bucchino’s love letter to Sondheim, “Playbill,” are also well-suited to Connell’s storytelling, but the usually thoughtful and supportive accompaniment by music director James Followell, is too fast and doesn’t allow the singer to breathe.  The sped-up feel might be intentional in order to fit in 16 songs (including a three-song medley) but it is nonetheless bothersome and shows up at other times as well. “Anyone Can Whistle” (Stephen Sondheim) is smartly positioned after the Bucchino song and provides the show its first, and most welcome, highlight. A subdued “Impossible Dream” (Mitch Leigh, Joe Darion) replaces histrionics with heart and his power to re-imagine standards shines.   

Connell’s patter too often seems to rely on the audience’s familiarity with his life and circumstances. That, coupled with a tendency to go for cute/naughty in some of the songs in a way ill-suited to his age, are evidence that director Mark Chmiel has some work to do on their next project so that the singer’s strengths always come to the fore. They should also both be careful with his physicalized appreciation at the end of each and every song that threatens to roll over into self-satisfaction.

But through it all, there is that voice and that charm. And when …it’s the joy in your heart… ends with Tim Connell embracing “Just the Way You Look Tonight” (Jerome Kern, Dorothy Fields), all is right with the world.  


Presented at Pangea, 178 Second Ave, NYC, January 27, February 10, April 12 & 20, 2024.


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?”