Press

Joe Morris

There's so much to be said for any one who follows their dream, no matter when in life they choose to do so. Tennie Leonard, for instance, always sang, always wanted to sing live, and now is doing just that, both live and on her first CD, From My Heart. Hers is a life worth singing about, full of experiences good and not so good. She had launched her cabaret career not long after marrying, and was on the rise with shows attended by the likes of Judy Garland and Buddy Hackett, but the sudden death of her husband stopped all that. From the pain of losing him at an early age to the joys and trials of raising her daughter Lauren, now an entertainment attorney, Tennie brings a lot to the table in terms of emotion. Her live performance recently at Tom Rolla's Gardenia was lively, engaging and entertaining, with lots of audience interaction. For that matter, her comfort level both with the crowd and the musicians belies her time off from the cabaret scene, and indicates the drive and talent of a true professional.

Tennie offers up a blend of standards and new material, and in the process demonstrates that she's got the pipes for everything from torch to ballads. Of special note is her rendition of "My Foolish Heart," which sums up a life of chances taken, with the results mixed. The same goes for her cover of "For All We Know," a song that can easily be mawkish but here is delivered with a bittersweet, knowing air. There's also a quiet, heartfelt rendering of "Ferris Wheel,"something new to our ears but hopefully a treasure that others will investigate.

Hopefully Tennie will be back on the West Coast soon so her growing cadre of fans here can see her again, ..."

 

Back Stage

"Leonard's strongest moments came on lighter fare, such as a very funny "Arthur in the Afternoon," which was a riot. She had everyone in stitches... she has a delightful personality and vitality..."

John Hoglund, Back Stage

 

Billboard

Tennie Leonard - "A Little Space": "Leonard offers a dewy-eyed ballad in honor of those receiving medical care at New York's memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Her vocal is a tad stagey at times, but her sincerity - not to mention producer Danny Holgate's melancholy sting arrangement - pushes this track over the top. For AC programmers who are catering to a more sophisticated and thoughtful listener."

Larry Flick, Billboard

 

WVOX Radio

"...Leonard has been a trooper in clubs like Mama's and Judy's for a few years now, and her proficiency at brassy show tunes as well as heartwarming ballads was very much in evidence to the packed house."

John Koroly, WVOX Radio

 

Cabaret Scenes

"...she began to weave her magic... her great phrasing and beautifully held notes blended effortlessly... One of the highlights of the evening, "Non, Ne Regrette Rien," sung in French, amazingly interpreted and highly dramatized with lighting, was reminiscent of the late legend, Edith Piaf."

Valerie Kanofsky, Cabaret Scenes
 

What About Today? Anything Goes…

Although no one will believe it, a voice from the wings announces, “Tennie Leonard, in her first farewell show.” This belting pixie is a personable and confident singer who brings her latest show, What About Today? Anything Goes…, to Danny’s Skylight Room. Admittedly, it’s a pretty cumbersome title, but it refers to her two current muses, the team of David Shire and Richard Maltby, Jr., and Cole Porter. The songs selected reveal something about the men themselves, as well as about the singer and the songs she chooses. Sophisticated, witty Cole Porter showed his dark side in songs like Down in the Depths, which Leonard performs sitting alone at a table with a martini; he also contributed her encore: Everytime We Say Goodbye and After You. It is, however, with the Maltby and Shire songs that Leonard delves deepest for the core of personal relevance.

Directed by Scott Barnes and accompanied by David Brunetti, Leonard’s selections are well-suited for a lady of a certain age. Leonard infuses Patterns and What About Today? with a been-there, done-that nuance uniquely flavored with her upbeat spirit. This optimistic/disillusioned mood pervading the show is effectively defined with the pairing of Porter’s hopeful At Long Last Love with an acknowledgement of disenchantment in Maltby and Shire’s I’ve Been Here Before.

Leonard has a big voice and one problem in her shows has been that she over-uses it. This time she tones down the decibels in some of the Maltby and Shire tunes, and also in Porter’s So In Love, which she performs with poignant desperation.

Petite and chic in a gorgeous black gown, if this is Tennie Leonard’s first farewell show, she’s got quite a few more to go. It seems she’s got more to say than ever before, and there are a lot of songs to help her say it.

Cabaret Scenes

 

TheaterScene 2009

Tennie Leonard is a diminutive dynamo and powerhouse singer who can surprise with a really big voice, singing straight from a heart full of life's experiences.

Once a rising star in the 60's who performed at The Living Room in NYC to auspicious audiences including Judy Garland and Buddy Hackett, and managed by Jilly Rizzo – owner or Jilly's nightclub – who booked her into the major hotels in the Catskills as well as Carson's The Tonight Show and the Merv Griffin Show, Tennie left the stage to raise her daughter. Returning a decade ago Tennie Leonard performs regularly in the tri-state area.

It's a pleasure to sit back and watch a pro take the stage with assurance and candor. This gracious little lady, wearing a stylishly elegant dé colleté black gown, opened with a medley of One Step and DeLovely, setting a tone of tenderness, longing and hopefulness, followed by I Hear Bells , a positive view of life but sung with a tinge of underlying sadness.

The evening of music and songs are an unusual but good compilation of Cole Porter and Maltby and Shire. She gave an introspective reading of I've Got You Under My Skin …a firm but soft, tender sell, Tennie is sweetly romantic. Cole Porter's So In Love followed sung with a plaintive approach "…love, so in love … ." So believable, so urgent, and showing off her resonant, lower register.

Turning to the music of Maltby and Shire with a stellar song entitled Patterns , about the struggle to change life's patterns in spite of "what I know…". This was decidedly a wonderful interpretation and reading – the best in the show with the line " …at least we would have been alive, you and I…what if we had loved like that."

The medley of At Long Last Love and I've Been Here Before questions the psyche of love. Down in the Depths, a Cole Porter number with that oh! poor me phrase "what's the use of swank and cash in the bank, alone in my sorrow, down in the depths of the 90 th floor". Tennie gave it just the right amount of poor me. The following number The March of Time has a fabulous line "….I wasn't ready for the quickstep of the march of time…"

Before her last number, Tennie let her audience in on a stroke of great fortune. At the age of 17, she co-wrote and recorded her first single Sincerely Yours , on RCA/Decca. The B side also got a lot of air play. It was Last Year's Bikini , which sported the line "I can't get into last year's bikini, there's a little too much of me…" She just got word that Wal-Mart is using it in a commercial set to air the end of this month. What fun!

This well done show closed with an encore medley of Porter's Every Time We SayGoodby and After You (Who?). Again, Tennie Leonard gives a reading that makes you sit back and hear the plaintive words of longing and love.

Music director David Brunetti and Frank Wagner on the bass create musical underpinnings for this diva in her show, What about today? ....anything goes, directed by Scott Barnes.

If there is any complaint about the show perhaps it's the use of the melody line by the music director throughout most of the show. Perhaps the singer's phrasing, which in the beginning of the show was a little too simplistic with too much of the same tempo, would change if there were more chords. The choice of using Maltby and Shires Patterns suggests a look at some of songwriter/performer John Wallowitch's material. It would be great to hear Tennie Leonard pick up some more comic songs as well as darker material.

In spite of an obvious cold or allergy attack, proving what a great "pro" she is, Tennie never once complained, but instead gave excellent readings and interpretations. Bravo! See her superb website www.tennieleonard.com and listen to the lady sing.

TheaterScene

 

CABARET SCENES 2000

"A spotlight isn't necessary when Tennie Leonard performs. She lights up a room by herself. Case in point: Her warm personality and rich voice brought a lovely glow to Judy*s Chelsea where her newest show, From Where I Stand, played. Starting with three witty numbers (Shy, by Mary Rodgers and Marshall Barer; I've Got Them Feelin' Too Good Today Blues, by Lieber and Stoller; and Bigger Isn't Better, by Cy Coleman and Michael Stewart), Tennie won my heart right off by letting the songs speak for themselves, skillfully skirting any "wink, wink, I'm being humorous" messages that lesser singers sometimes send.

Tennie's versatility was illuminated by her next number: a moving performance of Cole Porter's Down in the Depths on the 90th Floor. Continuing in a well-paced and varied program, she brought humor and heart to top quality selections written by such writers as Amanda McBroom, Craig Carnelia, John Bucchino and Carol Hall; Mercer and Arlen; Bernstein/Comden/Green; and Sondheim.

Her rendition of Kurt Weill's My Ship was a jewel, allowing the feelings and imagery of Ira Gershwin's lyric to shine through. With naturalness and simplicity of style, Tennie proved to be a songwriter's - and an audience's - loving friend. Hats off, too, to the arrangements and performing of musical director David Brunetti.

 

 

Essex Journal

Performer Tennie Leonard can put a song in the heart of all who hear her vibrant voice. The diminutive diva completely charmed the unfortunately sparse audience which gathered under the glass-topped Le Dome at The Manor in West Orange on July 15.

Opening with "With A Song In My Heart," which showcased the big voice which seems to flow effortlessly from this little lady. Leonard expressed appreciation for the muted glamour of The Manor's skytop cabaret.

"I live in the city," New York City, that is, "so I don;t get to see this kind of ambiance too often."

Leonard related meeting her idol, Judy Garland, when the Hollywood legend paid an unexpected visit to Jilly's nightclub where Leonard performed when she was 18. The singer shared the thrill of meeting Garland with the Le Dome audience, regaling them with a medley of Judy favs, including "The Man That Got Away," "Get Happy," and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" with all songs containing an echo of their originator.

Leonard introduced her pianist, David Brunetti, who sang with her on two duets, "Once In A Blue Moon" by David Friedman and "It's the Little Things", by Stephen Sondheim. Leonard then broke into "On the 90th Floor," a lament to lost love and the perils of excess, and continued the feeling with "On My Own" from "Les Misérables" only to change the mood completely with the mischievous "The Mood I'm In."

Leonard showed off here range and her French with a rendition of Edit Piaf's "If You Really Love Me." Not done being mischievous, however, Leonard took on an exaggerated Long Island accent for the adorable, contemporary "Arthur In The Afternoon," then softened the twang for the sweet "Right as the Rain" and the upbeat "Cockeyed Optimist." Leonard finished the set with another number by David Friedman, "Borrowed Time."

Summer vacations are the only excuse which should be accepted for not packing every chair in Le Dome for this fine performer. She really can sell a song, and will sweep you up in the moment. If Leonard returns to The Manor after vacationers return from their respective destination, they should give this lady a hearing.

Jacqule McCarthy, Associate Editor, Essex Journal July 1999
 

CABARET SCENES

"The recently re-opened Judy's, in its new home in Chelsea, was the venue for Tennie Leonard's show. This handsome cabaret room with its warm, inviting ambiance, is a setting where one can enjoy a pre-show dinner.

On the evening we caught Ms. Leonard's performance, her show was being video taped. Scott Barnes, her director, made a brief comment vis-à-vis the taping but his concerns were happily unfounded.

Affectionate, enthusiastic applause welcomed Tennie to the stage. Sporting a new hair style and wearing an elegant, short evening dress the diminutive chanteuse evoked the glamour of the Supper Club era. Launching into her opening medley of Today and After Today, an upbeat grouping with superb instrumental accompaniment by her orchestra that was reminiscent of the Big Band sound, Ms, Leonard opened with a bang!

Down shifting effortlessly into the timeless ballad Isn't It Romantic, then catching her breath before the demanding and wonderful Judy Garland Medley, she reminisced about meeting Judy Garland, describing it as once of the "greatest nights of my life." Frank Sinatra brought Judy to Tennie's show and she performed for her idol.

A wonderful segue took her into a medley of her favorite Judy Garland songs. Tennie brought alternating smiles and goose bumps with her interpretation of the unforgettable lyrics of these timeless gems and I'm sure much singing along! Her velvet tones enfolded the audience in The Man Who Got Away which sprang to life in her talented hands. Although time and space won't allow a discussion of each song, Tennie's audiences have come to expect that she will sing certain ones - specifically the unforgettableNon, Rien De Rien (No Regrets), made famous by Edit Piaf and the hysterical Arthur In The Afternoon, sung with a fair Brooklyn accent.

A variety of standards, contemporary compositions and musical theatre songs filed the eclectic program. I would be remiss not to mention the talented musicians backing Tennie. Ably directed by long time musical director/arranger/collaborator and singing partner, David Brunetti, the group of musicians brought in for the video taping is not what one generally sees in the intimate cabaret venues and at times, the combines cacophony of sounds of the bass, reeds, drums, trombone and piano caused Tennie to struggle vocally. But the singer's indefatigable warmth and energy, her humor and acting ability plus her vocal talent, not only allowed her to persist, but to make this a highly entertaining evening. This consummate professional is a must see for cabaret aficionados and also for those learning its demanding discipline."
 
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