Howard McGillin - Isn't It Romantic?

After his record-breaking run in the title role of The Phantom of the Opera, it’s a pleasure to once again encounter Howard McGillin without a mask. The 57-year-old, eternally youthful musical leading man--who has been performing on New York stages since 1984--is delivering a winning show at the Oak Room that shows off his lovely tenor voice, affable charm and sensitive way with a lyric.


Appropriately enough for this performer whose credits include She Loves Me, Anything Goes and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, the show—dubbed Isn’t It Romantic?—features a plethora of love songs. Clearly tired of his Phantom duties, he refrains from reprising that show’s signature number “The Music of the Night.”


Following a loosely autobiographical structure, McGillin begins the evening with an exuberant rendition of Arlen and Harbug’s “I Love to Singa,” made famous by Cab Calloway. His song selections loosely parallel his career credits: Jerry Herman’s “The Big Time,” prefaced with a story about his ill-fated Hollywood career as a contract player at Universal; a Puccini aria, recalling his New York stage debut in an English language version of La Boheme opposite Linda Ronstadt; a pair of Sondheim numbers, accompanied by an amusing anecdote about his run-in with the notoriously cantankerous composer after he turned down a role in one of his shows; “A Foggy Day in London Town” and “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square,” reflecting his joyous experience performing in the London production of Anything Goes, etc.


He wanders into more contemporary territory with such songs as Michael Buble’s pop hit “Haven’t Met You Yet”; “Time,” a new ballad written by his pianist Joseph Thalken; and, for an encore, James Taylor’s “Secret O’Life.” He also displays a comic bent with a raucous take on “How ‘Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm?”


Although is voice is more pleasant than particularly distinctive, McGillin is such a warm, engaging presence that his show is a consistent delight. Spending an hour in his company while bathed in the warm glow of the Oak Room is an experience definitely to be recommended.


Oak Room, Algonquin Hotel, 59 W. 44th St. 212-419-9331.