Maria Corsaro, Kati Neiheisel, and Gregory Toroian in “Love Is…” at Pangea: A Review

“What is this thing called love?” 

Wow, where do we start…?

Kati Neiheisel and Maria Corsaro are both gifted singers.  Both of these ladies have enjoyed critically acclaimed solo shows in 2021 at the downtown Manhattan cabaret hotspot Pangea, helping to usher in a new era of live performance in New York City nightlife after a long pause. While both Neiheisel and Corsaro can more than hold their own individually on a stage, the two of them singing together is a rare joy that cannot be replicated outside the world of live performance. This rare joy was experienced by the audience at Pangea on Sunday, February 6th for the simply but aptly named Love Is…, an audience-pleasing collection of love songs ranging from Let’s Fall in Love, to All is Fair in Love, to Take Love Easy.  Yes, kids, in case you haven’t guessed, there IS a theme.  Directed by Geoffrey Stroner and featuring Musical Direction/Arrangement by Gregory Toroian (who also gets to sing himself), this selection of timeless favorites and underheard musical gems seems hand-picked for anyone who has ever declared “I Believe in Love” (And yes, we get to hear that number too.)  Playing triple duty, Toroian also handles the piano, while Skip Ward and David Silliman take control of bass and drums respectively.

Neiheisel and Corsaro have distinctly unique vocal domains. Neiheisel’s higher range evokes the vibe of two lovers holding hands while walking through Central Park on a fall day with leaves dropping from the sky. This is one of the reasons her jazzy version of the classic Let’s Fall in Love works so well, or why the combination of Kati’s voice and the irresistibly eternal lyrics of Be Anything combine to create sheer musical perfection.  Corsaro’s deeper style inspires a romantic candlelit dinner when the sun goes down, as with her delivery of You Don’t Know Me— a number which, for the record, I have always believed to be one of the most feverishly romantic songs ever created.  Corsaro, who at times sounds astonishingly like pop singer Roberta Flack, can also convey the more challenging side of L-O-V-E as well, such as when she teams up with Toroian for the somber How Do You Keep the Music Playing?  That said, Kati is more than capable of evoking sensuality, as evidenced by her delivery of The Moon Was Yellow or Aznavour’s/Kretzmer’s She (Done as “He“.).   Maria, in turn, can get very playful, as she shows us with the jazzy Exactly Like You. As mentioned before, the moments of Kati and Maria singing together are truly wondrous.  The two first combined forces with the show’s opener, a Valentine’s Day musical montage.  At the show’s closure, the duo sent the audience home with the famous lyric, “Our leave is here to STAAAAAY!”. It was clearly a musical V-Day card to their fans, and no less than sheer delight.

But rest assured: As you may have figured out already, there are many, many moments in between the opener and closer of “Love Is…” which put the audience… shall we say, “in the mood”.   Gregory Toroian, the show’s Musical Director/Arranger and pianist, got the chance to sing as well, capturing the essence or romanticism with One Hello segueing into The Last Time I Felt Like This. If there was a musical/lyrical representation of “setting the stage” for what the upcoming holiday is all about (ahem…!), this song gets it perfectly, right on down to Toroian’s Sinatra-esque vocal style.  That spirit continued with Think About Love, Toroian’s duet with Kati.  The aforementioned anticipation of romantic fulfillment has never been stronger than with this number.  Corsaro’s medley of Over the Rainbow segueing into Make Me Rainbows is yet another of the show’s many highlights, as is Toroian’s solo When You Look Into My Eyes.  Yet another zesty zenith comes with Neiheisel’s up-tempo delivery of I Believe in Love.  In 2022, never before have such simple lyrics been more important: 

” I believe in love, I do! I believe I’m feelin’ good;
Everybody should!
I believe I’m feelin’ good!
Believe in it
Believe in love!”

Love– the good, the bad, and the challenging– has undoubtedly been the seed from which the majority of worldwide pop culture, particularly music, has sprouted.  In this heart-shaped box of chocolates of a show, three talented singers remind us of just why that is.  In the hands (and voices) of these talented artists, to requote the lyrics from one of the songs performed that night, “The music NEVER ends…!”

Kati Neiheisel’s next show will be her Carpenters tribute show, Yesterday…Once More, at Pangea, 178 2nd Ave., NYC, on Saturday, March 26th, 2022. Visit pangeanyc.com for more information.  Also visit Neiheisel’s official website at www.KatiNeiheisel.com.  Maria Corsaro’s official website is www.MariaCorsaro.com.  Stay posted for upcoming shows!

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