“I have never played a college younger than I am,” said Tony Danza, his Brooklyn accent filling the theater as he welcomed the audience to Algonquin Commons Theater Oct. 18 with a couple of toe-tapping songs followed by some jokes to loosen an appreciative but modest crowd up.
Danza is a Hollywood veteran. He broke onto the entertainment scene in 1978 with a role in Taxi as a down-on-his-luck boxer working as a taxi driver. The role was received very well and earned him a lot of fans and a 1980 Golden Globe nomination. It was followed by Who’s the Boss? in 1984 which ran through to April 1992 and earned him a couple of award nominations as well.
Since then he has been a regular in movies, TV even on Broadway earning mostly approval for his work. His most recent work is on the Netflix series Good Cop.
“You sing some nights at a performing arts center, such as a beautiful place as this,” said Danza in an interview with the Times after the show. “But the next night you’re singing the ballad as the roller coaster goes by; but that’s the kind of experience you have to put in to be free up here.”
Throughout his stage routine, Danza told stories from his career and from his life, interspersing them with humorous jibes that always got the audience laughing. He also showed off his ukulele skills that he had only just recently taught himself because his Thought-for-the-day calendar told him to.
“So, one day (the calendar) said, ‘Get a ukulele, practice 30 minutes a day for 30 days,” said Danza during the show, “You’ll entertain yourself, your friends, your family for the rest of your life.’ It was a long thought that day but I did it. When I got a ukulele, I’m telling you I recommend it, it’s like you can do so many things with it.”
He demonstrated his ukulele skills by playing a few tunes. He then turned his musical accompaniment back over to his four-piece band. Danza sang songs from the Great American Songbook and he paid homage to all the composers after each set, at one point quipping,
“There will be a quiz at the end of the show,” he said, which was rewarded by a ripple of laughter from the crowd.
“This music, it just has an effect on you, it’s always affected me,” said Danza after finishing another set, “I wonder how the music of today, what effect it will have on the younger generations. Every song we had growing up, every single song was about love, have love, finding love, lost love, gotta have love, love, love, love. Then we grew up and ended up the way we are. So, it just makes you wonder, what are these kids going to have to hum when they get older? You can’t hum Eminem.”
That thought resonated with Helen Deek, who was in the audience with her daughter Paula.
“It’s good to bring the new generation to connect,” she said after the show, while waiting to meet Danza, “You see what he said; real band, real music. In the past, you connect to bring the family, (and understand) what the words are about.”
Family, in fact, was among the themes in the show.
Danza also told a story from his childhood. His mother would not let him go out to play on Saturday until he had cleaned the house. While he cleaned she would play Frank Sinatra.
His mother was an “original bobbysoxer” and devoted fan. Every once and a while she would stop and make Danza listen to a part of the music and “when you are nine years old and see your mother freak out like that it blows your mind.
“Years later I’m on TV,” Danza continued. “Every once and awhile I’d get a swollen head and start thinking of who I was and my mother would bring me back to earth with a very simple ‘Hey big shot, when you introduce me to Sinatra then you are a star!'”
Then he left the audience in suspense while he sang a few more songs and as the final notes trailed off, he finished, “I did get to introduce my mother to Frank Sinatra.”
Sinatra appeared on an episode of Who’s the Boss? and Danza flew his mother out to meet him. It was one of the greatest moments of his life and apparently one of the few times his mother was speechless.
In addition to stories about his children and his grandchildren, Danza mentioned Sammy Davis Jr., with whom he was very good friends. He told stories about his time on Broadway and he shared a number of the musical pieces from the last show he performed.
And Danza tap-danced. The auditorium was silent except for the sound of his shoes clicking against the wooden stage slats and when he was finished, the applause was loud and adoring.
“The whole showmanship, kind of the whole deal, the singing, the stories, the tap dancing,” said audience member Nick Cochrane, “The way it weaves through with the music, it’s like a tapestry.”
“I thought it was absolutely mesmerizing,” added James Porter, a friend of Cochrane’s.
The show lasted almost 90 minutes and Danza seamlessly moved from act to story to song to dance and the time just melted away until it was over.
“It was great. I loved the tap dancing. I loved the choice of music,” said Pierre Lachaine, another audience member, “It’s put me in mind of the old movies.”