With so many nightlife options in New York, and only seven nights in a week, there’s definitely a need filled by Three Mo’ Tenors. In Marion J. Caffey’s entertaining musical revue at the Little Shubert, three sturdy, opera-trained singers traverse 10 different styles of music in just two hours. But whether this musical smorgasbord fills you up or leaves you wanting a main course will be a matter of personal taste.
Because of the show’s vocal demands, there are two rotating casts (and some different song selections each night). I saw James N. Berger, Jr., Duane A. Moody, and Victor Robertson, a trio who worked extremely well together and each of whom exhibited his own strengths at various moments of the two-act revue.
Robertson — the most diminutive member of the group, yet the one with the strongest voice and personality — shone brightest in the opening segment of the show, which is devoted to opera. His performance of “Ah mes amis,” from Donizetti’s La Fille du Regiment was simply gorgeous, as he effortlessly hit high C after high C. Robertson also showed off consummate skill with his dazzling performance of “Azure Te” (from the Broadway revue Five Guys Named Moe), but his misguided second-act solo, Al Jarreau’s “Spain,” was akin to watching your favorite American Idol contestant make a bad choice and ruin his chances to win the championship.
Berger did reasonably well with his Broadway selections, “Being Alive” and “Bring Him Home,” (somewhat oddly re-conceived as a duet with Robinson and an explicit commentary on the Iraq war), never struggling to hit even the trickiest notes. Better yet, he brilliantly led an audience sing-along of “Minnie the Moocher,” and got the ladies (and probably a few men) hot and bothered with a sizzling pairing of “Superstar” and “Let’s Get It On.” Moody, the weakest singer of the three, handled “Rain” and “Georgia on My Mind” competently, but finally came into his own on the traditional song “Noways Tired.”
For many audience members, the show’s highlights will be when all three tenors perform together, especially a remarkably intense rendition of “Today I Sing the Blues.” A medley of Motown hits was irresistible and contained the evening’s cleverest bit — in which the tenors sang only the Pips’ part of Gladys Knight’s “Midnight Train to Georgia” — and the group made a joyous noise with “Let the Good Times Roll.”
Somewhat less successful was a so-called “New School Medley” of current-day hits, and a tribute to Queen would have been better served by letting the men sing all of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” rather than a mish-mosh of the rock group’s greatest hits.
The show could benefit from a bit more visual flair. Michael Carnahan’s spare set gives us little to look at and Gail Cooper-Hecht’s decision to keep the guys in some variation of tuxedos throughout is practical (for quick changes) but dull. The five-piece band, led by Keith Burton, also lacks aural panache.
Indeed, it’s sometimes up to the audience — who are encouraged to sing along, clap, even dance in the aisle — to create their own excitement. But when these talented tenors are at the top of their game, who could ask for anything mo’?