In two of the town’s swankiest cabaret rooms, the testosterone levels are soaring. Every Monday night at the Algonquin, Rue McClanahan (the feistiest of TV’s aging “Golden Girls”), in her directorial debut, guides her husband, Morrow Wilson, through a center ring salute to Noël Coward, in the aptly titled Noël Coward 101. He doesn’t resemble Noel, or sound like him, but his quips and pointed, well-chosen anecdotes about the renowned composer, songwriter, playwright, novelist, painter and performer aim darts at the funny bone and rarely miss their mark. (He called Peter O’Toole “Florence of Arabia.”) Suffering from a restless spirit that prevented him from committing to anyone or anything, and a cynicism that prevented him from finding inner peace, he was a man in a hurry—always lonely and full of poisonous wit. From the soignée sadness of “World Weary” to sage advice for pompous Mrs. Worthington to “Don’t Put Your Daughter on the Stage,” Mr. Wilson builds each stanza into an even larger portrait of Coward, who could neither read nor write music, but created classics transcribed by friends. The voice is unsteady and there’s not much range, but Mr. Wilson has passion and wit and a refreshing lack of pretense that guarantees a high-flying good time. Clearly, this is a labor of love that really pays off. When Noël Coward’s party finally ended, there were fireworks. Morrow Wilson at the Algonquin creates a perfect depository for that kind of bombast to explode over again.
At Feinstein’s at the Regency, Tony Danza is like a pugilist who moves like Rocky and taps like a Rockette. Agile, fit and loaded with charm, he plays against image in spats and a straw hat; he offers songs and stories with dancing themes; he tells corny George Bush jokes, musician jokes, and dumb-blonde jokes, and talks about his age. Almost 60, he’s beyond Valpolicello and ready for Viagra. The show has variety. He sings close harmony with four musicians in a Four Seasons sock hop arrangement of “The Last Dance” and occasionally plays the ukulele, cornet and harmonica—all badly. But the thing about the guy is the way he always surprises you. He can bring back vaudeville with a sassy soft shoe, then blow a cool rendition of the jazz classic “Freddy the Freeloader” in a very reasonable approximation of Miles Davis. Tony Danza could bring back vaudeville, and boy do we need it now.