Nights are long, but you might awaken to a brand-new life around the bend. So said the catchy theme song of the beloved, ahead-of-its-time 1980’s sitcom Who’s The Boss?. However, the night goes by all too quickly when you spend it watching the show’s star Tony Danza perform Standards & Stories at the Café Carlyle in New York City where he has a two-week engagement.
You probably know Tony Danza as a television, stage, and screen star, but you might not know that he has a stellar singing voice. Along with his wit, charm, and many talents that include tap dancing and playing the ukulele, he has the kind of stage presence that makes you feel like he’s singing just for you, and it’s hard to stop smiling at any point from the first song he performs to the last.
The Café Carlyle is a great venue for Danza. It’s located within the The Carlyle, a Rosewood Hotel. With its music-themed murals by French artist Marcel Vertès and the warm lights of its matching lamps on each table, it sets the scene for engaging cabaret entertainment. Café Carlyle first opened in 1955, and other entertainers that have performed there over the years include Bobby Short, Eartha Kitt, Judy Collins, Jon Batiste, and Debbie Harry.
Dinner is served before each show, so the packed audience was talking lively as they finished dessert, but a reverent silence fell over the crowd as Tony Danza made his entrance from the back of the room. Tony took the stage with exuberance and expressed his excitement to be playing at The Carlyle, revealing that he dreamed of such a night since he was a young boy growing up in Brooklyn and hearing about the café society.
Danza’s first song of the evening was Bobby Darin’s “As Long as I’m Singing,” and he captivated the audience right away as some moved along with the music. Throughout the evening, Danza made a point of crediting the songwriters much like his hero Frank Sinatra.
Sinatra once guest-starred on Who’s The Boss?, and part of this story is revealed during the show when he joked about his beloved mother. To keep him level-headed while he enjoyed fame from starring in Taxi and then Who’s The Boss?, she would say, “When you introduce your mother to Frank Sinatra, then you’re a star!” So, he did just that when he flew his mother out to meet Frank Sinatra who, in turn, treated her like a star. You can tell Tony was still proud he had a chance to make his mother’s dream come true.
Longtime fans know that Tony Danza has long loved tap dancing, and the audience cheered when he tap-danced to some of his songs. Not only did he share his love of tap dancing with Tony Micelli, his well-adored Who’s The Boss? character, but he also would perform a tap-dancing number along with Alyssa Milano and Danny Pintauro, the show’s two child stars, for live audiences who came to see the show’s taping. There’s pure joy apparent in Tony’s eyes when he dances, and it showed in his performance at Café Carlyle, giving the audience joy, too.
Another interesting part of the show came when Danza revealed how he adapted some of the Great American Songbook for the ukulele. He talked about how he decided to learn to play the instrument after reading a challenge on one of those “Thought of the Day” calendars, and he has evidently taken the challenge seriously because he played as beautifully as he sang. Songs he performed with the ukulele included “Love Potion Number 9” and “I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry”.
Danza also performed some memorable music from Honeymoon in Vegas, the 2015 Broadway show he starred in. He sang the high-energy “Betsy” with its funny lyrics and references with charming sincerity, and the audience was wild about “Out of the Sun,” the song about his character’s regret that he didn’t get his compulsive sunbather of a wife out of the sun before she died of skin cancer. (Yes, it’s really a funny song.)
In addition to giving credit to the songwriters of the classic tunes he performed, Tony also gave well-deserved credit to his fantastic band. Joe Davidian played piano and contributed backup vocals. John Arbo was on bass. Dave Shoup played guitar and sang backup vocals, and Ed Caccavale played the drums.
After saying good night, Tony came back for a well-received encore of “Drinking Again”, a song by Doris Tauber and Johnny Mercer that’s best known for Frank Sinatra’s recording of it. The “saloon song” was one Danza sang to the audience as if we were the bartender, and he was confessing his feelings.
Tony Danza’s Standards & Stories leaves you feeling happy and satisfied yet wanting to watch it all over again. You can see Tony at the Café Carlyle in Manhattan during his two-week engagement running through June 25, 2022.