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.