Robert Cuccioli

The Look of Love

Canis Minor Records
Besides his successful dramatic appearances in musical theater (Jekyll and Hyde; Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark), singer/actor Robert Cuccioli has another musical passion, the American standards. He illuminates his affection for the genre in his solo debut CD, The Look of Love, where Musical Director/pianist Barry Levitt has arranged a generous 22-track songbook of selections from the 1930s and ‘40s. The theme is love in a mélange of moods, many flavored by Levitt’s light, catchy swing—a sexy Latin beat under Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh’s “Witchcraft,” a theatrical tango thrust to Al Dubin and Harry Warren’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” and “I Wanna Be Around” (Mercer/Vimmerstedt), delivered with a punch of vengeance.

The Sinatra tradition is evident in the music lineup and Ol’ Blue Eyes himself would have been comfortable with Levitt’s buoyant arrangements and standout musicians, including Jon Burr on bass, Ray Marchica on drums and Jack Cavari on guitar.

Any look at love has to include ballads, and Cuccioli presents a gentle take on the Gershwins’ classic, “Love Is Here to Stay,” and invests a tender touch to “Once Upon a Time” (Adams and Strouse). He shows a particular sentimentality in “Sleep Warm” (The Bergmans and Spence) that leads neatly into another bedtime song, “Dancing on the Ceiling,” which suddenly picks up in pace, invigorating the Rodgers and Hart classic. Hearing Cuccioli deliver Hank Williams’s “Cold, Cold Heart” indicates that country music might be a new direction to consider for this Long Islander. He displays just enough of a catch in the throat to qualify as a twang, yet he accords Williams’s traditional country song the same respect he gives Cole Porter’s urbane “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and Rodgers and Hart’s driving “I Wish I Were in Love Again.“

The tempo swings up to full-heat with Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kern’s “A Fine Romance,” as Cuccioli floats over the beat. Randomly, he sometimes pronounces “romance” as “romah-ce” and other times, as “romance,” but this mischievous approach feels like a playful touch. It adds a sense of fun, but it also challenges the mood of romance and that, after all, is the point of The Look of Love and its losses and discoveries.

With his sensuous theatrical approach, Robert Cuccioli obviously enjoys his selections from this bounty of classic American standards and appreciates the superbly crafted lyrics. While he illustrates the various looks of love, however, he often loses a sense of subtlety and intimacy in his interpretations. Listeners will surely find some personal favorites on the CD, although diehard fans might prefer seeing Robert Cuccioli’s talents live and dramatic on stage.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Cabaret Scenes
February 2, 2013