If all the world's a stage, then let the spotlight shine on Renée Marino. Fresh off a sold out show at The Green Room 42 on Sunday, September 29, Marino’s first solo NYC cabaret, “I Am Me, Because of Three,” was a sublime tribute to family, never settling for less, and staying true to oneself.
With a Broadway career spanning over a decade, Marino is perhaps best known for her turn as Mary Delgado in Clint Eastwood’s 2014 adaption of Jersey Boys (for which Marino played the same role on Broadway). Back on stage following a run in last season’s Pretty Woman, Marino’s charm and candor – combined with her show’s efficient, well-structured narrative – lay down a solid, comfortable foundation to explore self-love and resilience; concepts and bold strokes which never deterred into cringe or cliched territory for one central reason: la famiglia.
At the heart and soul of “I Am Me, Because Of Three” is a love story written and dedicated to Marino’s family, the “Power Trio” in her life: her father “Big Sh*t” Frank (in keeping with her childhood nickname, “Little Sh*t”), her mother Ona, and her grandmother Frances (Franny). Though also real people, they are characters in every sense of the word, characters which (along with other moving parts, including Marino’s silky soprano voice and natural effervescence) make Marino’s cabaret a cut above and truly memorable.
In many respects, Marino’s show has the flow and energy of a one-act musical, crafted to include a clear beginning, middle, and end, with dramatic beats and sentimental anecdotes along the way. The impact of structuring a cabaret in this way, rather than a hodgepodge of numbers sung with no relation, is indisputably satisfying and gives the show a strong sense of identity and greater purpose.
In describing the creative process of piecing the show together, Marino shared with The Ensemblist: “My co-writer, Dante Russo, had me first simply write stories about each family member. We then created a storyboard as you would in a television writer’s room and we began piecing together the story and songs bit by bit.”
For the musical arrangements, Marino turned to friends and colleagues from the Great White Way: “Ron Melrose, who is the original Music Supervisor and Music Director for Jersey Boys on Broadway, helped guide me with some of the arrangements and placements of the songs. My musical director, Gerald Sternbach, and I then solidified the songs and what ‘feel’ we wanted for each one.”
Like every good musical, the selection of songs – ranging from pop hits and classic standards such as Gloria Estefan’s “Get On Your Feet” and Frank Sinatra’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” to even the theme song to “Rawhide” – are each performed with their own individual narrative purpose. Personal standouts of the evening included a mash-up of Louis Armstrong’s “Sunny Side of the Street” and Alicia Keys’ “Girl On Fire,” in homage of Marino’s first show on Broadway (West Side Story in 2009), as well as another mash-up of Sara Bareilles’ “Brave” and Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance,” a reflection of Ona’s resilience to never settle for less or accept the status quo.
The evening closed with an encore performance of “When You Wish Upon a Star,” a sensitive reminder to the dreamer in all of us that, regardless of the tumultuous, jaded world we live in (and frankly, the darker, scratchier world just outside the The Green Room 42), we are all capable of magnificent things; but not without a little humility, hard work, and self-worth.
Marino was accompanied on stage by Logan Medland (Musical Director/piano), Mark Papazian (drums), Brian Holtz (bass), Nate Brown (guitar), and Courtney Allen (backup singer).