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Penny Fuller: Friends In Deed

The Broadway star's stunning new cabaret act proves she belongs back on the musical stage. logo
Penny Fuller
(© Joseph Marzullo/Retna)
Calling all casting directors, directors, composers, and anyone else involved in musical theater. Get yourselves over to the The Metropolitan Room for Penny Fuller's stunning new cabaret show, Friends in Deed (through September 9), and then explain why this consummate performer hasn't been in a Broadway musical in over 30 years.

True, Fuller hasn't been wanting for work of late. A superb actress, equally comfortable in comedy and drama, she has recently graced such Off-Broadway works as Beautiful Child, Southern Comforts, and the about-to-bow Dividing the Estate. But none of those plays have allowed her to display the still-rich voice and superb interpretive skills that would benefit many a musical. Just listening to her gorgeously wrought versions of "The Job Application" and "Fifty Percent" from Ballroom should make many a producer instantly consider a revival.

At times, to watch Fuller on stage is to watch the years practically melt away. She's instantly the coquettish Carrie Pipperidge -- a role she played opposite original Carousel stars John Raitt and Jan Clayton in Washington, D.C. in the early 1960s -- in a beautifully considered "Mr. Snow."

With nary a blink of an eye, she switches to an English accent and flawlessly transforms herself into Cabaret's Sally Bowles -- her first Broadway musical role -- offering up a singular rendition of the title tune and "Goodtime Charley," a number which John Kander and Fred Ebb wisely cut from the show. And it appears to be 1970, not 2007, the second that she launches into a fierce rendition of "One Halloween," her big solo number from Applause, for which she scored a Tony Award nomination for her portrayal of backstage schemer Eve Harrington.

The show isn't just Fuller's greatest hits; that would be too short. Instead, it's a smartly chosen compendium of songs by composers who Fuller worked with or met during her career. That framework allows her to share a few -- too few -- priceless anecdotes about people like Harold Arlen and Billy Goldenberg. Better still, it allows her to exhibit an even stronger personal connection to her material. In fact, Fuller even got lyricist Lee Adams to write her female lyrics for the now-titled "The Woman for the Man Who Has Everything."

The evening, in which Fuller is beautifully accompanied by pianist Paul Greenwood and bassist Louis Tucci, has been very smartly directed by Barry Kleinbort. Fuller returns the favor by doing true justice to two of his creations: the satiric, tongue-twisting "A Sondheim Song," and the haunting "Time," which provides a fitting closing for this memorable act.

But listen up, there's still plenty of time to get Penny Fuller back on the musical stage, where she so clearly belongs.

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