Jeff Gilbert, the old-school crooner who specializes in forgotten hits from the ’30’s and’40’s, embraces the newfangled medium of television with an hour-long special on SUN TV Comcast 27 this weekend. “The Jeff Gilbert Show” airs Thursday-Saturday February 28-March 2) at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.
Special guests vocalists include Dana Land and Sue Albano, singing some classic standards of yesteryear, backed by the John Simon Trio. Putting the variety into Gilbert’s variety show are Peter E. Babcock, the Coney Island Washboard King, who displays his hand-built, one-man-washboard band, and magician Roger Rhoten, who apparently has a flock of doves living in his tuxedo.
Tobias the Mystic also appears, at one point swallowing a balloon and regurgitating eggs, thus proving that vaudeville was the first YouTube.
Most of the performances were taped live at the Sebastiani Theatre, during Gilbert’s “Talk of the Town” show. Land charmingly restyles a tune from “The Wizard of Oz,” and takes the trio from slow to swinging on a Mancini rarity. Albano, who mostly appears around town in rock mode with her band JoyRide, shows another side with a sultry “Sentimental Journey,” complete with period dress.
Gilbert, dashing as always and throwing in a few choice voice impersonations, signs a playful duet with Albano, and closes the show by sampling the singing stars of early radio. (The backdrop: pieces from his antique radio collection.)
The Sebastiani acts are augmented by a Sinatra-style tune from Stan Pappas, backed by “The Stanettes” – David Robbins, Raider Manny and Ken Brown – who dance but thankfully only lip-synch the chorus. Variety, indeed.