The Diva and the Baritone”: A Review by Nino Pantano
Hallie Neill and Theodore Lambrinos in “The Diva and the Baritone” at the Laurie
Beechman Theatre: Notes by Nino Pantano
Soprano Hallie Neill, from San Diego, California, was praised by the New York
Times as “A rapturous singing actress” and she has sung many operas to world-
wide acclaim especially in Tosca, La Traviata, Carmen, Pagliacci, Die
Fledermous and The Merry Widow. She has sung in 25 countries including Cairo
Opera, Netherlands Opera, Opera Tampa and the New York Grand Opera.” Her
talents as a playwright led to her creating “A Scandalous Affair” about the
secret love of musical film idols Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, in which
she toured with her husband baritone Theodore Lambrinos. Their CD from the
show was on the Grammy list for “Best Musical Show” album. Famed tenor
Placido Domingo described Hallie Neill as “A beautiful soprano with a voice of
Theodore Lambrinos was born in Brooklyn and has had a brilliant operatic
career singing over 60 major baritone roles. His acclaimed Rigoletto at the
Metropolitan Opera was the stuff of legend and his many appearances with
New York Grand Opera’s Verdi festival added to his luster. His voice captivated
the critics in the United States, Europe and the Far East. His versatility and
acting ability have made his performances of Falstaff, Scarpia and Don
Giovanni unforgettable to the SRO audiences who were able to see them. Not
bad for a Brooklyn lad from a Greek American family. Lambrinos recalled to us,
his happy memories of St. Johns Place and his days as a student at Erasmus
Hall High School as well as his visits to the nearby Brooklyn Botanic Gardens,
The Brooklyn Museum, Grand Army Plaza Library and Prospect Park and all the
cultural opportunities offered to him then. Lambrinos was nurtured in our
borough and he enters the long list of those Brooklynites whose talents make
the world a better place.
Hallie and Theodore will soon be heard as the “Opera singers” in the upcoming
film Doggie Boogie. They are truly a “dynamic duo.”
On the evening of August 10, in the charming and intimate, Laurie Beechman
Theatre at the West Bank Café, featured a performance of “The Diva and the
Baritone” (Cole Porter to Puccini) starring Hallie Neill and Theodore Lambrinos.
The musical arrangements were by the talented Elliott Finkel, away on tour,
another Brooklynite and son of the famed Yiddish stage and TV actor Fyvush
Finkel of Pickett Fences. The witty and effervescent dialogue was written by
Hallie Neill. Good natured, good humored “competitive” banter made for an
evening of sheer delight and joy!
The opening number was a spirited Sondheim number, “There’s a Parade in
Town,” with Lambrinos looking elegant in a dark tux and white scarf and Hallie
Neill in a sequined gown and boa!
Ms. Neil did some impressive “coloratura” as their friendly duel became
hotter. “Anything You Can Sing, I Can Sing Better” from Annie Get Your Gun
was a highlight as Lambrinos interjected his “lower” dynamics with
Sparafucile’s subterranean notes to her Bellini like pyrotechnic highs. Great
good natured fun!
Operatic bits included a mock La Gioconda “Suicidio” from the Diva and Simon
Boccanegra from the Baritone. Broadway highlights included “So in Love” from
Cole Porter’s Kiss me Kate. “It’s Delightful, It’s Delicious, It’s Delovely, “You Do
Something to Me” and “All the Things You Are” were sung chock full of melodic
beauty with as rich a vocal blend as the finest of coffees! The pair
demonstrated Puccini’s flair with Hallie Neill’s saucy and flirty “Quando men’ vo”
from La Boheme with Lambrinos as the outraged Marcello and a hand-picked
Alcindoro from the audience who played his part with relish!
A tribute to Nelson Eddy and Jeanette Mac Donald followed with ”Wanting
You” from Sigmund Romberg’s New Moon.( MGM Film, 1940) Ms. Neill then
introduced author Sharon Rich in the audience, who wrote the book
Sweethearts (Bell Harbour Press) upon which Ms. Neill’s hit show, A
Scandalous Affair was based.
Mr. Lambrinos sang a deeply touching “This Nearly was Mine” from South
Pacific evoking the memory of the great opera basso Ezio Pinza, the first Emile
Lambrinos sang a medley including one Greek song and a spirited Russian song.
Hallie Neill followed with a tantalizing Piaf selection “La Vie en Rose.” Her
beautiful voice retains all of its vocal sparkle and allure. Their exquisite
blending brought new magic to an old chestnut with a ravishing “Amapola.”
Who could resist the” O Sole Mio” or “Arrivederci Roma” that followed?
Frank Sinatra hits “Come Fly with Me” and “ New York, New York” made for a
fabulous finale and when the ovations stopped, an unforgettable “Encore”
was “I Remember it Well” from Gigi with humor and a poignancy that was
touching. It recalled the late great Maurice Chevalier and Hermione Gingold.
The Neill-Lambrinos stage chemistry is sheer magic and their personal warmth
“I Feel a Song Coming On” was the witty finale, as they were both as loath to
leave the stage as we were to see them go! The excellent pianist-
accompanist was David Shenton.
When my wife Judy and I were dating, we went to see Nelson Eddy and Gale
Sherwood at the Empire Room at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. They too had
vocal splendor and casual humor which provided an evening of nostalgia and
enchantment. We were transformed by this evening’s show to that young
couple we were back in 1965.
“The Diva and the Baritone” evoked the memories of the days when cabarets
offered such delicious delights to an audience in an intimate setting. We thank
the multi-talented Hallie Neill and Theodore Lambrinos for holding that banner
A special thank you to soprano Elaine Malbin (Also from Brooklyn) and Paula
Baron for recomending that we see this marvelous show!
For further information: www.DivaBaritone.com