Erich Bergen is back for more cabaret at the Carlyle Cafe
Before getting into the elevator from his hotel room to go on stage at the Café Carlyle, Erich Bergen staged Sinatra – Sinatra at the Sands more precisely, the one conducted by Quincy Jones and with the entire Count Basie Orchestra – has a small Jack on the rocks, checks his Ralph Lauren (or Tom Ford tonight?) tuxedo, and then he might pinch himself. “I’m having real full-circle moments right now.” The singer and actor just wrapped up a run as Billy Flynn in Chicago on Broadway, where he sold the show’s t-shirts in college. And this week, he opens the season at Café Carlyle, a place where, growing up in New York, he used to come to see Eartha Kitt, “and Stritch. And I saw Wynona Judd who was so great here. And of course there were many nights in Bemelmans.
Café Carlyle, the intimate cabaret space that has opened on the first floor of the classic New York hotel is a singular experience, considered by many to be the perfect night in New York. The space only holds ninety people for dinner, drinks, and live music. “Maybe old-school,” says Bergen, who kicks off a season that will feature Peter Cincotti, Betty Buckley, Michael Feinstein and Rita Wilson, “but it also feels like the future of New York we all want. And it was so exciting to see a new generation discovering Bemelmans. Café Carlyle is next.” He has already come on stage. Last spring, Bergen played two nights to sold-out crowds at Café Carlyle.
For anyone who was in the fresco-covered room on May 20 or 21, some things are changing — there will be songs from Chicago and two guest stars for duets — but most aren’t. The New York medley will always be sung. “And I can never play with Jersey Boys,” says the singer and actor who starred as Bob Gaudio in Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys. “I tried to pull it off before, but then you realize it’s stupid. Barry Manilow still sings Copacabana.” (Since the audience was full to participate when he sang I love You Baby at his last show , that’s a good idea.) “And Clive (Davis) told me I should sing a Harry Styles song. I remembered Falling and sure enough, my musical theater nerd brain wired it to Falling from Playing Our Song, so that’s also trendy. Bergen’s affection and respect for the Carlyle Cafe makes everyone want to sing along and order another Manhattan. And then maybe check in and getting room service. “It’s like a little lounge and a great sound system and the best place to be in the audience. But the best part about working there is they give you a suite to stay in.” and even monogram your pillows. There is no backstage so it’s your dressing room. e place where you perform. Elevator to step in 8 minutes. Everything seems very Sinatra in Vegas to me. And after the show at Café Carlyle? Is it directly to Bemelmans then? “’The Hang’ after is one of the greatest things in show business. But I have to behave. I have a 70 minute show to do every night.
After his week at Café Carlyle, (September 13-17) Bergen, which you might also recognize from lady secretary Where Bull Where Waitress (or maybe you went to Stagedoor Manor together?), has other big New York parties ahead of you. His production company 6W Enterainment is hosting the Gods Love We Deliver gala and other events in New York this fall. It is named after apartment 6W, the Chelsea loft where he grew up and started performing. “I gave sold-out concerts. Human nature. Michael Jackson. I would dress up in costume and perform. It all started in apartment 6W. He’s not ruling out a return to Chicago on Broadway in the future, but his New York home seems to be the plan this fall. “I will be here this year for Thanksgiving. Maybe I’ll cook the turkey this time? Or maybe order it from the Carlyle? Perfect with an accompaniment of Whiskey Smash.
Editor-in-chief Stellene Volandes is a jewelry expert and the author of Jeweller: masters and mavericks of modern design (Rizzoli).