There is special magnetism to Anita Gillette when she takes the stage, as she did to an enthusiastic welcoming crowd last night, Oct. 7, with another performance of her show “Chapter 3,” scheduled for Oct. 14 as part of Jim Caruso’s Monday Night Cast Party. Gillette is not just an excellent singer and actress based on her extensive stage experience on Broadway and elsewhere during her long career. She has a delightful personality and flashes enthusiasm for what she does, and audiences take warmly to her in appreciation for who she is as well as for how she performs. She also has a treasure trove of amusing autobiographical stories to tell as introductions to some of her numbers.
The personality she can pour into a song was evident last night in the very first selections, “I Can’t Be Bothered” and “Happy Go Lucky,” which quickly established rapport with her audience. Then she swung into “Italian Street Song” and “Cuanto La Gusta,” forecasting the range one could expect to follow.
Gillette can be sexy, as with “Teach Me Tonight,” very tender, as with “It Never Was You,” soft and easy going in her interpretation of “Shall We Dance,” longingly with “I’ll Never Go There Anymore,” and especially showing off her voice with a medley from “Showboat.”
Throughout she delivered funny comments and anecdotes, referring for example, to meeting her former doctor husband at an autopsy. She gave a sexy report on teaching Richard Gere how to tango. She shared stories about different roles she has played, including Pocahontas in London.
In joyfully reporting that she has a new great granddaughter, she commented on aging by quoting humorist Will Rogers as asserting, “The only way to slow advancing age is if it had to pass through Congress.” As entertaining as Gillette’s stories are, she could tighten them a bit.
The guts of her show is delivering her interpretations of a wide range of songs, including “High Plains Jamboree,” “That Terrific Rainbow,” “You Mustn’t Kick It Around,” “You Have to Want to Touch Him,”"Everybody Says Don’t,” “Everyone Needs Someone,“ “I Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man,” “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries,” and more.
There is amusing interplay of duets with her pianist, Paul Greenwood, who on occasion joins in the singing, as does bass player Ritt Henn, which adds to the show’s easygoing feeling. For her encore, Gillette sang Cole Porter’s “You’re the Top” and after doing his lyrics inserted some very funny made-up ones by Barry Kleinbort reflecting contemporary times. The biggest laugh came when she sauntered toward someone in the audience and, continuing the “you’re the” string of lyrics, sang “You’re the f—k in a play by Mamet.”
Gillette is taking this show to London, but meanwhile you can catch it 7 p.m. on Oct. 14 at Birdland, 315 West 44th Street, Phone: 212-581-3080. Reviewed October 8, 2019.