Tony Danza—the good-natured, street-smart wise guy from such touchstone television shows as Taxi and Who’s the Boss?—is probably not the first person you think of when you think of cabaret. But, boy, is that about to change
On February 9, Danza made his debut at The Colony Hotel’s Royal Room. Famous for hosting such cabaret superstars as Tommy Tune, The Four Freshmen, and Nicole Henry, the Royal Room offers the perfect intimate surrounds for an evening of good food, great performances, and abundant laughs. On his first night of a two-week engagement (with performances through February 13 and 16-20), Danza proved he could hang with the best of them. He sang Sinatra, he cracked jokes, he tap danced, and—as if that wasn’t enough—he even played the ukulele.
As with any Royal Room event, the experience begins with the food. The staff at The Colony Hotel prides itself on transporting guests to the heyday of cabaret, and the menu is a welcome step back in time. Classic starters like jumbo shrimp cocktail, prime steak tartare, lobster bisque, and seared Hudson Valley foie gras paired with pears and strawberries signal a return to luxury ingredients cooked to perfection. Standout entrées include the horseradish and brown sugar–coated Alaskan salmon over sautéed spinach and hearts of palm as well as a roasted prime rib served with thyme au jus and horseradish, as is tradition. And you won’t want to skip dessert. Opt for the Pear Helene (made famous by The Plaza Hotel, another legendary cabaret locale) or the heavenly Tarte Tatin.
Once the plates are cleared, the staff closes the curtains to both entryways, secluding the Royal Room from the hotel hubbub. This is when the real entertainment begins.
During his performance, Danza quoted his friend and mentor Sammy Davis Jr. when he said: “Take the stage eagerly and leave reluctantly.” This phrase aptly describes Danza’s attitude. He busted into the room with his quintessential ear-to-ear smile, shaking hands and greeting guests all the way to the stage. Backed by a piano, a guitar, drums, and an upright bass, he dove headfirst into three fabulous songs made famous by crooners Bobby Darin and Frank Sinatra: “As Long as I’m Singing,” “(How Little it Matters) How Little We Know,” and “That’s All.”
Danza is a huge Sinatra fan—a trait he inherited from his mother—and he graced the audience with many songs by Ol’ Blue Eyes including “It Was a Very Good Year” and “How About You?” In the latter, he even tap danced. Bet you didn’t know he could do that.
As it turns out, Danza is full of surprises. Throughout the performance, he joked with the audience about his time in Hollywood (“Don’t drop names,” he said, “my friend Bobby DeNiro taught me that.”), his recent move back to New York City, his stints on Broadway, and his love for thought-of-the-day calendars. In fact, he even learned how to play the ukulele at the behest of such a calendar. He joyfully broke out his uke for a few quick numbers including “Love Potion No. 9,” which the audience couldn’t help but sing along to.
The entire performance—which clocked in at just more than an hour—was utterly delightful, but the true highlights were songs from the Jason Robert Brown musical Honeymoon in Vegas, which Danza starred in on Broadway last year. “I Love Betsy” is an energetic ode to falling head-over-heels in love, while “Out of the Sun” is an ironic requiem for a woman who spent too much time soaking up harmful rays. Danza nailed them both.
Danza tapped once more for the finale, “If My Friends Could See Me Now,” before returning with an encore of “Our Love is Here to Stay.” If only Danza was here to stay too.
Tony Danza performs at The Colony Hotel’s Royal Room Cabaret through February 13, and returns February 16-20. For more information or to make reservations, visit theroyalroom.com