Village Gate Is Swinging Once Again -- in New Neighborhood


Senior editor Kristin O'Meara stopped by at the new Village Gate for a little music. Her report follows:

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NEW YORK -- The Village Gate, a New York institution, is back with a bang, and its first show takes a satirical swipe at popular music.

Music lovers, especially jazz fans, mourned the loss of the original Gate, which two years ago lost its lease on Bleecker Street after 37 years of operation, and were further chagrined by its replacement, a CVS pharmacy.

Late last year, owner Art D'Lugoff moved his operation uptown to sleeker, if smaller, digs on 52nd Street, in the heart of the theater district.

On the night of my visit, a Friday evening, the Gate was packed, mostly with tourists, who came to see the acclaimed new show conceived by DeeDee Thomas and David Tweedy, called "A Brief History of White Music."

Black performers James Alexander, Wendy Edmead and Deborah Keeling cavort through a 28-song set of decidedly "white" songs, sometimes poking gentle fun and at times unleashing full-scale hilarity.

The cast clicked off a well-chosen mix of pop tunes, from a swingily syncopated version of "Bei Mir Bist Du Schon" and an utterly silly rendition of "Leader of the Pack" to a spirited cover of the Beach Boys' "Surfin' USA."

The three performers turned the tables on Elvis Presley with back-to-back renditions of "Blue Suede Shoes," "Love Me Tender" and "Jailhouse Rock."

The audience (my table included) howled at Keeling and Alexander's hysterical version of Sonny and Cher's "I Got You, Babe."

Although she was acting against type, Keeling did a masterful, wicked Cher, complete with love beads and a waist-length, stick-straight wig.

The three expertly worked the crowd, as Edmead convinced a red-faced, tuneless tourist to croak along with her to "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini."

Alexander turned in a steamy, ironic interpretation of the Beatles' "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," as he yearningly sang to one-half of a delighted, giggling lesbian couple seated up front.

The show wound down with a gentle, heartfelt version of John Lennon's "Imagine," and Alexander, Edmead and Keeling sent the audience home with the feel-good message of the Beatles' "We Can Work It Out."

After the show, the audience is welcome to stay for live swing jazz and dancing until 2:30 a.m.

The preshow crowd can catch a quick dinner here with a menu offering a selection of hefty salads, sandwiches and entrees, priced from $10 to $20.

(We liked the chicken and grilled-vegetable salad and inhaled the bread pudding.)

"A Brief History of White Music" is performed once on Friday nights, with afternoon and evening shows on Saturdays and Sundays.

Ticket prices are $40.

For groups, dinner show packages are available for $55, including a four-course dinner, tickets to the show and dancing.

Groups should call in advance for reservations.

For more information or reservations, call the Village Gate at (212) 307-8466.

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