Don’t Tell Mama

Don’t Tell Mama, by Americasroof, licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0

Last night, my husband and I went to one of my all-time favorite spots in New York, Don’t Tell Mama. We visited the Piano Bar, but the place also holds a restaurant and 2 cabaret showrooms.

Don’t Tell Mama hosts some of the biggest stars on Broadway, from Idina Menzel to Audra McDonald, but what you may not hear in advance is that it’s home to some of the most obscenely talented waiters, waitresses, and open-mic singers you’ll ever get to see.

Please excuse the atrocious quality of this video in order to catch a glimpse of the phenomenal talent that walks through the doors there! This is just someone at an open-mic night. Honestly, have you ever been to an open-mic night and had this lady get up and take the stage?!

Also, has she ever been your waitress?

The audience is so filled with musical theatre and cabaret lovers that when the pianist plays a show tune or classic rock song, everyone bursts into song, and in some instances, backing vocals or imitations of the instrumentation! Last night, the audience sang the horn section in Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes off You,” as well as the “sock it to me” section in Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” while the open-mic singer wailed her perfectly polished solo vocal ornaments.

Many years ago, I had the privilege of singing at the piano bar. The first time I sang there, I was tricked into it by my then vocal coach, the late Jay Bradley, who was a pianist at Don’t Tell Mama. I went there with some girls from my college a cappella group, planning to just sit and watch the fabulously talented singers. Jay suddenly called me up to sing and got the audience clapping. I was so furious at the time but too uncomfortable to say no. I still remember that I sang “Waiting For Life,” from the musical Once On this Island. Now that I’m a voice teacher, I know that I probably could have picked a better song for my voice, but it’s what I could come up with at the time. Looking back, I know I would never have had the nerve to get up amidst all those talented singers, so my anger at Jay has, over the years, turned into gratitude for giving me those experiences.

Visit Don’t Tell Mama on 343 W 46th Street, New York, NY 10036. (between 8th and 9th Avenues).

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