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Cabaret Review (LA): “A Fine Romance” by Damiano and Engel at Sterling’s Upstairs at Vitello’s

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Three years ago Michael Sterling, a nationally recognized entertainment and public relations entrepreneur, decided to bring a cabaret to Los Angeles. He felt that the vast talent pool here needed a place to grow and display their wares. His respect for the cabaret form of entertainment stemmed from his long association with the legendary Rosemary Clooney. So he decided to dedicate a club in her honor, and each year at the anniversary of the opening you can find an empty table with a candle, a flower, and a theatrical framed picture of Ms. Clooney upstage left, reserved in her honor.

Vitello’s Restaurant is one of the more famous restaurants in Los Angeles, known for its fine food, a wide variety of specialty wines, live opera and jazz nights, and famous clientele. Upstairs from the restaurant proved a perfect locale for Sterling’s club, now called Sterling’s Upstairs at Vitello’s. The intimate space is perfect for cabaret as well as a nice cozy dinner. On the occasion of the club’s third anniversary, Sterling featured two of the most popular singers and the most popular song-and-dance duo in Los Angeles, Tami Tappan Damiano and David Engel. Accompanying them was the incomparable Michael Paternostro, a terrific musician and performer in his own right (we are even treated to a few lines of singing from the accompanist).

On this special occasion the pair of performers presented the premiere of their new act called “A Fine Romance” (based on a popular song by that name), which traces the relationship of a couple, in song, from first sight to marriage, then break-up to reconciliation. Both were in fine singing form and acted as a delightful pre-Tony warm-up. Both performers are true triple threats and have various Ovation nominations and awards between them. It was particularly nice to get to see Tami Tappan Damiano since she has all but disappeared from the local scene of late to raise her family. She has a wonderful full rich soprano that is extremely powerful, perhaps even a bit overpowering for the room, but who cares? She really scored with Sondheim’s “Not Getting Married Today,” “I Will be Loved Tonight,” Blues in the Night,” and The World Goes Round.”

David Engel is one of my favorite performers in LA. He has an easy way about him and seems to love entertaining the audience. On this night he seemed a bit unsure of himself and I was told he felt he wasn’t in great voice though I didn’t notice it. To me he delivered his usual melodic, gorgeous baritone. His highlight for me was “My Foolish Heart.” Together they sang a number of songs as they acted out the relationship. The songs included were “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” a delightful “Blip Blip,” “I Won’t Dance” (which is too bad because they dance so beautifully together), and of course, “A Fine Romance.”

All in all it was a fantastic evening of song, laughter, some tears, and a chance to see this great duo at the primary dinner club in Los Angeles. “A Fine Romance” played on June 7th at Sterling’s Upstairs at Vitello’s.

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