Arlene's story starts off with a beautiful young woman, determined to sing, and one who accomplishes her mission by taking her Garland-like voice and intensity all over the world, from London to the Catskills. But she made a deal with her parents. She promised them that if she did not make it "big" (whatever that is), in the fifth year of her career, she would stop striving, and enter the real world, as it were.
Well, Arlene's world, both personal and professional, has been anything but pedestrian. The above title of Ms. Wolff's show is more than apt when opening up a conversation about her colorful life. For years, she worked in the New York City's Mayor's Office starting with Abe Beame, during the turbulent, yet vibrant times of the 1970's. She brought the tall ships to town, brainstormed and created the original New York street fair. Now, decades later, she turned back to her original vocation, taking the stage quite securely.
Arlene suggests Edith Piaf and Judy Garland in her stature (petite) and her passionate vocalizing (larger than life). Taking on the Great American Song Book, Wolff, under the direction of Scott Siegel, delivered her songs in an organic sense of order; defining the story of her life. Each tune was a hit, including "Blues in The Night," (sung with a real natural blues pulse), "Once in a Lifetime," "Come Rain or Come Shine," and more than a dozen other dynamic showstoppers, snazzily arranged, and deftly performed by her pianist and musical director, Ian Herman. Also first class were veterans Howie Gordon on drums, and Dave Dunaway on bass.
Arlene has retained an uncanny sense of rhythm, style and most importantly, the rare ability to craft the ballads; reaching her audience on a personal level, as exampled by her exquisite "Autumn in New York." "With a Song in My Heart," was spun directly into our hearts; while we sat on the edge of our seats, as she directed it towards her dashing husband of thirty-one years, retired police chief, Mickey Schwartz. She reminded me of the recently departed and well-loved Julie Wilson; who would take a well-worn piece of Gershwin, and compel you to listen as if it was a first hearing.
Often when a singer starts her patter, well, it is just that, patter. Arlene's stories are not of that ilk; they are tales of the past, fascinating and one of a kind.
Peter Martin, the owner of the theatre Stage 72/The Triad, has been responsible for the elegant renovation and upkeep of this Upper West Side treasure. He must be thanked for retaining this space for Theatre, Cabaret and almost any type of entertainment that deserves to be staged in the city of New York.