Here and Now - Reviewed by Randolph B. Eigenbrode for Cabaret Scenes

Tennie Leonard

Here and Now

Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, May 22, 2018

Reviewed by Randolph B. Eigenbrode for Cabaret Scenes


Tennie Leonard Photo: Kristin HoebermannTed Mack. Danny Holgate. Jilly’s Saloon. Buddy Hackett. The Living Room. Sinatra.

For those of you too young to recognize these names and places, save for the Chairman of the Board, Tennie Leonard’s retrospective cabaret is a good place to start learning. Her show is part classroom, part showroom.  And all of it is told through a handful of great Songbook gems peppered with unexpected choices. 

Leonard entered in a brash red ensemble: long, narrow satin pants paired with a red bell-bottom sleeved top. The sleeves are hypnotizing, highlighting every wrist flick and wave of Leonard’s expressive arm movements. Red is a strong color and Leonard quickly revealed her own fortitude. Even for a woman of a certain age, she has no trouble remembering lyrics, blocking or—most excitingly—how to work a room.

She opened with “Golden Rainbow” (Walter Marks) and immediately we were transported to a supper club of the 1960s. Her voice recalls those great singers—Kaye Ballard, Tammy Grimes, Annie Ross—full of both class and brass. The pieces continued and she finessed each with equal parts audience interaction and personal journey. (Young cabaret singers, take note.)

And a quiet romance unfolded with Leonard and her MD, the always-great Ian Herman. His arrangements are elegant and appropriate. Making it look easy, he followed her every phrase—even when Leonard would decide to invigorate the ends of lines and through transitions. He is—to put it bluntly—a pro.

Leonard conversely colored each selection with bright hues. “You’re Nearer” (Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart), a wistful list song, was almost champagne pink in its intoxicating specificity. “I Never Do Anything Twice (Stephen Sondheim), full of tongue-in-cheek innuendo, vigorously simmered in jungle red. The clichéd “50 Percent” (Billy Goldenberg/Alan & Marilyn Bergman) should have boiled, but instead conjured a dim gray. Yet “Patterns” (Richard Maltby, Jr./David Shire), with Leonard’s misty eyes gleaming, felt like a satisfying midnight blue. 

The latter would be one of three highly personalized moments in the show that each reverberated with fearless candor. Her takes on “I’ve Been Here Before” (Maltby & Shire), revealing a possible romance with a younger suitor, and “Not Exactly Paris” (Michael Leonard/Russell George), revealing a brief but haunting romance, are tailor-made choices for her. It’s sobering (and eerie) to witness the honesty of a simple lyric: “Of all the men in my life, I remember one.”

Clocking in at only 70 minutes and paced with breezy gusto (bravo to director Scott Barnes), Leonard deftly painted a rainbow of experiences. And her audience responded with knowing smiles, hearty guffaws, and nostalgic sniffles. This is the way cabaret should be. 

And while there is certainly something to be said for neo-cabaret and breaking the rules, young cabaret singers should use Leonard’s show as a lesson in craft and technique. Her history is lush and her showbiz pedigree is undeniable.    


Tennie Gets a “Ten” (10 Out of 10 Points): Tennie Leonard

tennie-leonardBy ROB LESTER****I don’t know if she can ride a bicycle, too, but if cabaret is like riding a bicycle, to invoke an old saying, and you just get back in the seat and pedal and what you learned is all there, then Tennie Leonard is clearly in the driver’s seat and riding high. She (re)cycles her career and act after her second career intermission.  At the end of a very satisfying, successful first night of her “back onstage where she belongs” return, she graciously thanked the venue and the audience, expert sound/lighting man J-P Perreaux (Oui, un ami du Metropolitan Room), sublime music director Ian Herman, veteran director Scott Barnes who guided her now and back when, booking manager Sidney Myer and the very full audience, she also thanked her daughter, Lauren, who convinced her to get back on the horse…I mean, the bicycle….I mean, the stage. I think there was a general consensus in the happy crowd that we should definitely be expressing our thanks to Lauren, too, for the nag, the noodge, the notion, the nice effort that ended this too-long break.  So, thanks, Lauren.  And don’t tell Mama, but Mama might be called back to Don’t Tell Mama before she can catch her breath for a return of The Return Show.  And many happy returns.  And many happy return customers. Your mom is the very definition of an old-school cabaret old pro who has “still got it.”  Ms. Leonard, you may turn in your AARP card because your fans are not letting you retire again.  The final two time slots you’ve booked at the nightclub—December 10 (at 4:30 PM) and the no-longer-superstitiously unlucky night of the 13th — are just the beginning of a new beginning.

Beginning with a bang, with “Golden Rainbow,” a song asking for luck and dreams, seemed to bring a lucky and dream-fulfilling start.  She sounded vibrant and upbeat and strong and rarely showed any evidence of a layoff before the eventual playoff after “Better” (Ed Kleban), which couldn’t be bettered.  But, of course, there was an encore.  After all, after all was said and done, this WAS classic cabaret.  And the encore was embraced eagerly.  Along the way, there were gems with new shine, such as Cole Porter’s diamond-like “Down in the Depths (on the 90th Floor)” rising to new heights and burnished gold with Goldenberg & the Bergmans’ “Fifty Percent” which she delivered with 100 percent authenticity. 

If asked for a quibble or two, I’d say that I wished she talked more and showed some of her mischievous side earlier.  She has stories to tell that she only drops hints about (sharing a 300-pound bodyguard with Frank Sinatra, playing legendary posh rooms of another era, Brenda Lee in the adjacent recording booth in Nashville).  A parody using a certain musical theatre warhorse as a comment on the woes of short-term memory frustrations might have been a welcome leavening earlier in the set and cemented a more rounded impression of her ingratiating personality with less of a wait for that welcome change of pace which could have been an ice-breaker.

Ian Herman is a simpatico and top-drawer piano man who brings drive and anchoring.  He gets to really take the wheel and show more of his wheelhouse with a rollickingly jazzy “Day In, Day Out” and another such opportunity to stretch out would be a good idea.  They seemed to be very much on the same wavelength and brought the audience —ready, willing and enabled — into their musical world. And what a rich world it is– rich voice, richly satisfying material…Isn’t it rich?  Are they a pair?  Quite.

So, if YOU know how to ride a bicycle, or can afford a cab on top of cover and minimum, or have a golden ticket called a MetroCard, are in walking distance, head to 343 West 46 Street on the 10th or 13th.  I almost had to rent a boat to row to Restaurant Row that first night in a downpour, but the rain didn’t dampen my spirits or those of my soggy fellow listeners toting umbrellas and several toting flowers for the return of a favorite.  And certainly the anticipation didn’t become bothered by the precipitation, even if the coincidental early-in-the-set appearance of Yip Harburg and Harold Arlen’s “Right as the Rain” wasn’t noted.  Everything here and now in the show titled Here and Now seems as right as the rain we need to make cabaret flowers bloom again.  Good to have Tennie Leonard in the cabaret garden again, her career coming around and around again, like a bicycle wheel with the “re-tire” pun too tired to invoke in the spoke, so I will just speak now and forever hold my peace after I say, “Treat yourself to a classy show and go.”


© Rob Lester for


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



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 and listen to the lady sing.




"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.



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