The year Tony Bennett turns 80, he releases the CD "Duets, An American Classic," and for Public Broadcasting System, he performs nine duets (eight from the album) and a solo in front of an audience in L.A. Billy Crystal, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bruce Willis, John Travolta, and Robert De Niro provide brief commentary, and there are a few clips and lots of stills of Bennett through his career. Mostly it's singing: with Barbra Streisand, John Legend, k.d. lang and Chris Botti, Diana Krall, Juanez, Elton John, Michael Bublé, Stevie Wonder, and Christina Aguilera. The Tony Bennett Dancers give cabaret and 60's stagings to several numbers. Written by
Singer Tony Bennett turned 80 on August 3, 2006. He has been performing since the age of 10. Just like with most entertainers, he has had his share of major successes and failures. In the last decade, he has been able to span the generation gap by performing on MTV and winning several major Grammy awards. I think one major reason for Bennett's recent success is he has not made creative compromises. Instead of going for what is currently "in", he has stayed with the standards that are being rediscovered by audiences of all ages.
When I saw the name Rob Marshall on the credits of "Tony Bennett: An American Classic", I knew I was gonna have a lot of fun watching this TV special. Oscar-winners Dion Bebee (cinematography), Colleen Atwood (costume designer) and John Myhre (production designer) collaborated with Marshall on Chicago and/or Memoirs of a Geisha. The slick, visual splendor from those two movies are apparent in this special.
While the numerous musical duets were very entertaining and the little positive biographical anecdotes on Bennett's life were interesting, what did it for me was that the entire special hearkens back to when the three major TV networks used to produce numerous variety specials from the 50's through the mid-70's. Usually the entertainer (whose name would certainly be in the title of the special) would perform with numerous special guest stars and perform a proverbial duet or two, a few comedy bits, several dancers and a live studio audience. My personal favorite duet was an homage to TV variety specials with Bennett and Diana Krall.
I hope this special will be released on DVD. I believe this love letter to Tony Bennett deserves to be seen by a larger audience.
Update (December 20, 2006): The program has been released on DVD. Check out Amazon.com or other websites for information.
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