Review by David Roberts of

 

    

Review by David Roberts of Theater Reviews Limited

 

"Robert Cuccioli "
at Arci's Place



Robert CuccioliAt the end of Robert Cuccioli's current show at Arci's place, audience members have a new hero. One might assume that hero to be Mr. Cuccioli himself. Certainly the room at Arci's was packed with patrons who would follow Robert Cuccioli anywhere. This artist is completely passionate about his craft and his audiences are just as passionate about him and his formidable talent as an actor and a singer. However the new hero is someone Mr. Cuccioli introduces in a subtle way throughout the evening. By the end of this review, the reader will know who that new hero is and that revelation might be surprising to many.

Robert Cuccioli's show is all about heros. Screen heros and heros captured on video. Larger than life heros who have shown courage and those who have fallen. Passionate men and women who have made a difference not only in their own time but for all time. Heroic relationships. All heros the audience can identify with and choose to emulate.

This well designed show begins with "Holding Out for a Hero" (Jim Steinman/Dean Pitchford) from the long-running "Footloose." Mr. Cuccioli instantly wins the audience's heart with his powerful interpretation of this popular song. His eyes never stop making contact with each person in the room and with his skills as actor and vocalist he charms us and easily convinces us to join him on his search for the hero we all need. His choice of this particular song also reminds us of that wonderful show "Footloose" which continues to entertain and challenge audiences at the Richard Rogers theatre.

The first song beautifully segues into "Man of La Mancha" (Mitch Leigh/Joe Darion) from the timeless show by the same name and "C'est Moi" (Frederick Lowe/Alan Jay Lerner) from "Camelot." The "daring, loyal, kind, and courageous" heros from these shows are given a new life by Robert Cuccioli's ability to get inside the lyric and explore all its treasures and not just those more accessible gems from the song's surface.

All sixteen of the songs from "Hero" are familiar. It is the familiarity of the music and lyric and the power of Mr. Cuccioli's voice that makes the show memorable and successful. This talented singer is as comfortable with Richard Holler's "Abraham, Martin and John" as he is impersonating "The King" with "Love Me Tender." Whether serious or playful, Robert Cuccioli never strays from his purpose to make the hero approachable and the song memorable. He has consummate respect for the songs he chooses to sing and the audiences he chooses to sing to.

Mr. Cuccioli brings new passion to Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" and the heartfelt "Go the Distance" (Alan Menken/David Zippel). But it is in the touching rendition of Meredith Willson's "Till There Was You" from "The Music Man" that we see a hint of what makes Robert Cuccioli so popular and such an important contributor to the theatre.

This is an actor who is completely in touch with his feelings and his passions. He is aware of his own dreams and his own fantasies and is able to set in motion the fantasies of those who see and hear him perform as very few performers are able to do. Like a fearless therapist, Mr. Cuccioli gives the audience permission to transfer all their hopes and dreams and notions of romance and passion onto himself so that each person in the audience can ultimately find healing and wholeness in her or his own life's journey.

When he shares the story of the heroic relationship between Christopher and Dana Reeve the heroism of love has new meaning for the audience. Mr. Cuccioli is graciously careful to be sure everyone in his audience is included when he speaks of love and relationship. By letting us into his own life and telling us of the support he had received from his three sisters, we can better appreciate the support we receive and find the courage needed to give support where it is needed.

Finishing with "Hero" by Mariah Carey and Walter Afanasieff, Robert Cuccioli brings the audience full circle, from the heros of the silver screen to the heros we find in our own hearts and our own mirrors. Though there are heros all around, ultimately we need to find and cherish that hero within.

Robert Cuccioli's "Hero" at Arci's Place is a must see. Mr. Cuccioli has a wonderful voice which he obviously cares for and continues to train. The couple sitting next to this critic had come to Manhattan by bus from Allentown, Pennsylvania just to see Robert Cuccioli. Before the show, one of them said to me, "I really hope he sings "This Is The Moment." I neither encouraged nor discouraged her hope but as the evening progressed I think she would not have minded if that wonderful Frank Wildhorn song didn't get sung. She and the rest of the audience had experienced a gifted singer who had graced each of us with amazing treasures. What we might have hoped for as we entered the room gave way to new hopes, greater dreams, and even richer fantasies.

But Robert Cuccioli did sing "This Is The Moment" as his encore. Frank Wildhorn is probably one of Broadway's greatest composers and certainly one of the theatre's least appreciated artists. It is amazing that the press cannot honor him with the respect he is due. Mr. Cuccioli honors Mr. Wildhorn and reminds of yet another unsung hero in his feast of heros.

Arci's Place is fast becoming one of Manhattan's premiere supper clubs with one of the finest cabaret rooms in the entire City. Under the care of proprietor John Miller and general manager Johnny Walker, everything about this restaurant and venue is top notch from the time one enters until one leaves. It is the perfect place to see Robert Cuccioli who will convince you no to let the hero that is in your soul perish. Miss this show and you miss the opportunity to experience on of live theatre's finest performers.

Reviewed on Saturday, April 8, 2000.


ROBERT CUCCIOLI AT ARCI'S PLACE

Musical director, Jan Rosenberg. Bass guitar, Mary Ann McSweeney. Acoustic and electric guitar, Jim Hershman. Director, David Wasson. Presented at Arci's Place, 450 Park Avenue South between 30th and 31st Streets. Performance schedule: Tuesdays through Thursdays at 9:00 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. through April 29. There is a $25.00 cover charge and a $15.00 minimum for all performances. For reservations (strongly recommended!) call (212) 532-4370. For more information on Arci's Place visit the webs
Ite http://www.arcisplace.com/

 

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