Film and TV star Peter Gallagher makes for a refreshing change of pace in the Gotham nitery parade with his cabaret debut at Feinstein’s. Though not especially known for his singing, the New York-born Gallagher has firm roots in musicals; he acquits himself well while filling the room with an unpretentious manner and Irish-American charm.
Gallagher made his debut at 20 in the chorus of the 1977 revival of “Hair,” immediately nabbing a replacement gig in the long-running original production of “Grease.” He was featured in Hal Prince’s “A Doll’s Life” and later played Sky Masterson in the award-winning 1992 revival of “Guys and Dolls.”
So it’s no surprise to find the actor back in town, singing for his supper following a four-season run on TV series “The OC.” His eclectic set of 12 songs features three of his “Guys and Dolls” numbers plus a fourth tune from Frank Loesser (“Baby, It’s Cold Outside”). On the pop side, Gallagher gives us Randy Newman’s “Every Time It Rains” and Lyle Lovett’s “She’s No Lady.” Set is capped by a quietly effective encore of “Danny Boy.” Gallagher is backed by a four-piece combo led by guitarist Bob Thiele Jr.
The songs are offset by stories (hence the evening’s title), and it’s here where Gallagher — visibly nervous at the start of his first solo engagement ever — settles in. He talks of his upbringing, career and family, giving the impression of an average, middle-class guy — a nice guy — who was able to take his love of theater and make it into a fulfilling career. The stories sound genuine, and some are extremely funny (especially one about filming on location in Ireland with Peter O’Toole).
Feinstein’s and similar New York venues are typically booked with highly assured, meticulously rehearsed singers who have their audience wrapped around their fingers (or at least think they do). Gallagher — who tells us that in sixth grade he used to walk around doing Dean Martin impressions — seems thrilled but slightly surprised to find himself singing solo in a celebrated nitery. His enthusiasm rubs off on the customers in this good-natured set.