Drunk With Love: A Tribute to Frances Faye

by Rob Lester

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday May 20, 2006

Singer Terese Genecco, appearing in her tribute to jazz and openly gay singer Frances Faye.
Singer Terese Genecco, appearing in her tribute to jazz and openly gay singer Frances Faye.  

The theory that "you can't please all the people all the time" is, apparently, dead wrong. The very pleasing and powerhouse Terese Genecco takes the challenge and wins, at least judging by the rave reviews she's already collected and the reactions of the opening night audience at her return engagement in New York City. Her show is a tribute to a unique figure in show biz history, Frances Faye: bawdy, brash, funny, uninhibited and a steamroller whose voice and band were a blast-and thought her audiences should HAVE a blast. Terese is of the same mind and has the same qualities. Familiarity with Faye is not a prerequisite-audience members with no familiarity of Faye's ways were perhaps quite surprised, but seemed just as royally entertained as those who came in knowing the style and material. Terese is justly proud of the fact that her act has won praise from the late Frances Faye's most dedicated fans and personal friends and musical associates, and has their support. But if you weren't part of the group, you won't feel out of the loop. Those who know the legacy just appreciate the show on an extra level. Talent is talent.

Another feather in her cap is that she has the blessing and assistance of Teri Shepherd, the woman who was the icon's partner in business and life. Yes, Frances Faye was the rare "out" lesbian entertainer over 50 years ago. The show happily celebrates Frances' out-and-proud and the hell with everything else attitude, and Terese embraces that and everything else about Frances. And she embodies it herself. Some of the show is done more "as" Frances, taking on her attitude and performance style, down to the highly quotable stage quips. ("Gay! Gay! Gay! Is there any other way?") and the musical arrangements. Sometimes, she takes a few steps back and talks ABOUT Frances from her own well-researched point of view and sings more as herself. She says onstage that the show is "a recreation of the spirit" of the star she has come to refer to as "Fran," though she never met her. (Faye died in 1991.)

Working with a hot 7-piece band (she shared piano duties in New York with Barry Levitt), Terese Genecco delivers showstopper after showstopper in a confident manner and has voice to burn. You can tell in the first thirty seconds as she bounds onto the stage and sings out in a clear voice that soars on open vowels and rings through the room. Pow! Pow! Pow! We're in very good hands here. In addition to bits of songs used as throwaways to make a joke, the songs include all-stops-out treatments of Night and Day, I Ain't Got Nobody, Unchain My Heart, and a few Faye wrote herself. There are also selections from the Beatles' songbook - they were Faye fans-and some Gershwin. Many are delivered full force, with a determination to entertain and connect, the audience directly addressed, teased, and courted. To say it is a high energy show would be the understatement of the year. The band in New York also included Brian Fishler (drums), Joe Corsaro (percussion), Fil Lorenz on woodwinds, Max Perkoff on trombone and Bud Burridge on trumpet.Tom Hubbard was on bass on opening night, but Bill Moring also does some shows. These are top pros all, who are very much part of the celebration, as evidenced by the interplay and high flying playing.

The show had the happy fate to be booked as part of the opening month at New York City's newest venue, The Metropolitan Room at 34 West 22nd Street. (It's already been booked with popular entertainment figures, including Karen Mason, reviewed favorably at this website in recent months. The manager is Lennie Watts, a talented performer in his own right. The Room looks great and sounds great, too; the sound and lighting for this show were especially effective. Bigger than many clubs, this showroom can handle a big act like this without feeling at all claustrophobic.

Terese has also been alerted that she has pleased Frances Faye herself. She told me, "A recent musical collaborator in San Francisco, who claims to be clairvoyant, told me that Frances Faye drops in during my performances from time to time and really enjoys what I'm doing. He told me that she doesn't have a vested interest in the outcome but she totally digs what I'm doing. And he said we've lived a couple of past lives together, one including powdered wigs, which would explain why we both have a strong aversion to being told how to wear our hair!"

It doesn't matter a bit how she wears her hair. The vivacious San Francisco-based entertainer wears her talent well, like her beloved Fran. Her audiences are ecstatic and Terese Genecco is FRAN-tastic.

More info and a video sample at TereseGenecco.com

ROB LESTER returns to Edge in 2019 after several years of being otherwise occupied writing and directing musical theatre shows, working as a dramaturg, arts consultant, and contributing articles and reviews to various outlets. His long-running "Sound Advice" column covering cast albums and vocal CDs has been running regularly at www.TalkinBroadway.com for almost 15 years.