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by Michael Portantiere

Tom Postilio: This Time Around

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    Even the most well established cabaret/club performer can benefit greatly from a little television exposure, especially when it comes to scoring gigs in major NYC venues. Tom Postilio has been a presence on the concert and nightclub scene since the age of 20, when he began touring internationally as the featured vocalist with the Glenn Miller Orchestra. This was followed by his debut in the Chestnut Room at Tavern on the Green, for which engagement he received both a MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs) Award and a Backstage Bistro Award. Then came bookings throughout the country and an 18-month stint in the Off-Broadway show Our Sinatra.

    Over the past decade, Tom has worked up a second career as a real estate broker, and his faccia has recently become known to the public at large in his guise as a star of the HGTV reality series Selling New York. I spoke with him about that experience and his upcoming return to cabaret at one of the toniest rooms in town, Feinstein's at Loews Regency, where he'll be in residence May 17-21.


    BROADWAYSTARS: Tom, it's been quite a few years since your last show. Are you enjoying your work on this one?

    TOM POSTILIO: Yes. I'm just learning my last bits of patter and going over the songs that are new to me. The crunch is on! But it's been fun. I've been away from it for a while. The last thing of any notoriety that I did was Our Sinatra, about 10 years ago. I've sung here and there since then, but my last solo show in New York was at Arci's Place in 2000. Do you remember Arci's?

    STARS: Yes! In fact, it came up in conversation just the other day. That was a great room.

    TOM: It was. Lately, I've had a handful of gigs around the country, here and there. In January, I was invited by Michael Feinstein to sing for the opening of his performing arts center in Carmel, Indiana. And I've done some private events, corporate events. I've been pretty selective about only taking gigs that paid decently and let me use my own band.

    STARS: Can you talk a little about Selling New York, for those who may not have seen the show?

    TOM: Sure. It's just one of those strange twists of fate in life's journey. I've been in the real estate business for about 10 years; I'm with a small boutique agency in Chelsea, called CORE. About a year ago, we were given the opportunity to be part of this new reality show on HGTV. We got involved with it, and I took to it pretty well. I'm fortunate to have had the show business background, because when the cameras roll, you're really just looking at bullet points; there's no script, per se. I was able to roll with it and make it up as I went along, which is basically how reality TV works. The show has been running for about a year, and it's wildly successful, to everybody's great surprise and happiness. It's one of the top three rated shows on HGTV, and they've just started airing it in, like, 60 different countries around the world.

    STARS: I don't imagine you've had a chance to display your singing talent on the show?

    TOM: Actually, one of the episodes that's going to be coming up in the next few weeks will have me showing my background as a singer; I invited all my clients to this big event, and I got up and sang with a band. That kind of sparked the idea of doing a show at Feinstein's. An opening came up there, and I'd been itching to get back to club work. So, in a sense, the TV show catapulted me back into singing.

    STARS: This will be your debut at Feinstein's?

    TOM: Yes, and I'm taking it very seriously. I'm working very hard to put together an entertaining show with standards and some songs that are off the beaten path. We're calling the show "This Time Around," which is the title of a lovely but little-known Peter Allen song. I adore Peter Allen, and we thought that title was a nice sentiment for a show that's sort of a return for me -- the idea of coming back to something that you did once before.

    STARS: I'm happy to see that you have Mark Waldrop as your director.

    TOM: He's a delight. I've always been a fan of his; I saw When Pigs Fly five times. Like I said, I really wanted to come in and do this show the right way. Mark is just terrific, and so helpful to me.

    STARS: Back in the day, you played the Chestnut Room at Tavern on the Green. Do you miss that venue?

    TOM: I do. It's very nostalgic for me to think of that room, because that's where I played when I first hit the scene in New York. The place was packed. In a way, the room was kind of ridiculous, but so much fun; the décor there was so over the top. I remember joking one night that it reminded me of my family's living room. It's a shame that Tavern on the Green is closed, but a piece of real estate like that -- I'm sure they'll eventually get their act together.

    STARS: You've always featured Frank Sinatra songs in your shows, and you spent a year and a half in Our Sinatra. Do you find there's still a great audience response to that music?

    TOM: Yes. To this day, people clamor for the legend of Sinatra and the body of work he left behind. For me, it always comes up in conversation, especially with me being an obsessive Sinatra fan. His legacy is very solid. We'll be doing a few Sinatra songs in this show, because he is my hero and my idol. We're going to do "I've Got You Under My Skin," but in a very different, non-Sinatra arrangement. Then there will be a little section of New York songs -- "Manhattan," by Rodgers and Hart, "I Happen to Like New York," by Cole Porter...

    STARS: I guess that's the "real estate" part of the evening.

    TOM: Yeah! We're trying to mix modern-day standards with the Great American Songbook and keep the show as fresh as possible.

    Published on Saturday, May 14, 2011

    Michael Portantiere has more than 30 years' experience as an editor and writer for TheaterMania.com, InTHEATER magazine, and BACK STAGE. He has interviewed theater notables for NPR.org, PLAYBILL, STAGEBILL, and OPERA NEWS, and has written notes for several cast albums. Michael is co-author of FORBIDDEN BROADWAY: BEHIND THE MYLAR CURTAIN, published in 2008 by Hal Leonard/Applause. Additionally, he is a professional photographer whose pictures have been published by THE NEW YORK TIMES, the DAILY NEWS, and several major websites. (Visit www.followspotphoto.com for more information.) He can be reached at [email protected]

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