Tony Danza: Carrying the Torch at Cafe Carlyle

Written by | Miscellaneous

Tony Danza began opened a two-week run at Cafe Carlyle on June 16.

By Paul Hagen

Photo by Michael Wilhoite.

Through the long lens of history, it’s easy to group Tony Bennett with the Rat Pack because he ended up carrying the torch of the Great American Songbook that they had lifted so high. But Bennett was actually 10 years younger than the likes of Frank Sinatra (which helps explain why he’s still on the road with Lady Gaga and her parade of wigs and not pushing up daisies). While we wish Mr. Bennett nothing but continued good health, it’s worth wondering who will carry on the legacy after him? Michael Bublé? Josh Groban? The surprising answer might be another Tony — Tony Danza.

In his current residency at the Cafe Carlyle, Danza shows off remarkable musical instincts. Though he may not engage in the vocal acrobatics popular among many of the cabaret set, he knows how to jazz up a song — scatting here, switching up the melody there. As an added bonus, he’s Tony freaking Danza; so he hits the stage with enough charisma to light the entire Upper East Side.

My first thought when Danza came to the stage sporting close-cropped hair and looking fit in a perfectly-cut jacket was: “He is still SO handsome.” Yes, time has been good to Danza, who quickly told the crowd that he can actually see the Carlyle from across the park. “At night, it lights up and beckons me,” he said with a wry smile. But now it is Danza who’s lighting up the place — with nicely-delivered standards like “That’s All” and “It Was a Very Good Year” — not to mention jokes on topics from his daughter to the close quarters of life in NYC.

Danza aficionados will know that the star recently had a turn on broadway in Jason Robert Brown’s Honeymoon in Vegas, and a portion of his Carlyle set is dedicated to saluting that show. He offers “I Love Betsy,” which Danza did not sing in Vegas but performs so masterfully, perhaps he should have. We also hear some of the material his character did perform, such as “Out of the Sun,” which has a lyric that is jam-packed with laugh-out-loud jokes. Danza also parlays a number from Vegas for which he played ukelele into a fun bit, in which he accompanies himself for a few songs. “What am I doing fooling around with this thing when I have a band?” he joked, and though his band is worth applauding, it was a fun departure.

Danza is to be further applauded for keeping his cool under the intense stage lights on a staggeringly hot evening. “I was going to wear an undershirt, but I thought, NAH!” he mentioned while mopping his brow. Before exiting the stage, he revealed that he’d completely soaked through his dress shirt, and when he asked the audience whether we wanted a peek, we responded with definite enthusiasm. That’s when, in an extremely high-end equivalent of a wet T-shirt contest, Tony Danza took off his jacket and took our collective breath away.

Oh, and — not to spoil the surprise — but when I heard Danza was playing Cafe Carlyle, I’d bet he would find a way to work in some tap dancing despite the small size of the stage. Let’s just say, he doesn’t disappoint.

Photo by Michael Wilhoite.

Tony Danza plays the Cafe Carlye June 16-27 with 8:45 shows Tuesday to Friday and both 8:45 and 10:45 shows on Saturdays. For reservations,
click here.

Last modified: July 27, 2017