Jesse Luttrell — Manhattan cabaret entertainer and self-proclaimed “modern-day vaudevillian” from Hershey, Pennsylvania — brings his latest act, “Showstopper,” to Off-Key Tikki in Patchogue for the first of three summer performances starting Tuesday night.
It’s Luttrell’s second season at the West Bank Marina restaurant, nightclub and faux beach resort where you can sit under palm trees sipping tropical drinks — with or without cocktail umbrellas — and munching on Voodoo Hog Wings while listening to live music.
Tuesday is cabaret night.
What brings a headliner from last winter’s sold-out run at Feinstein’s/54 Below to Off-Key Tikki? Summer is a slow season for indoor cabaret and Luttrell “discovered” Patchogue, he says, when as a 21-year-old fresh from college, he landed an ensemble role in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel” at Gateway Playhouse in nearby Bellport. With the cast sharing living space on the Gateway campus, performing eight shows a week and enjoying afternoons at the village beach on Fire Island, “It was like summer camp,” Luttrell, 33, recalls. Gateway also produces a show or two each summer at the former Ward & Glynne’s vaudeville house now known as the Patchogue Theater.
Fast-forward to 2015. Luttrell was looking for a gig after “Bawdy,” the Manhattan burlesque/vaudeville show closed after six years. Luttrell served as emcee and lead singer with an ensemble that included strippers, magicians and escape artists. Those who attended either of the “Bawdy” shows at Off-Key may remember his way-up-to-here fishnet stockings and the playful innocence of its brand of burlesque.
If that’s what you’re expecting this time, don’t. “Showstopper,” which won rave reviews following its January opening, is all about the Great American Songbook, with each number, Luttrell says, living up to the show’s title. Among them are “What Kind of Fool Am I?,” the Leslie Bricusse-Anthony Newley number from “Stop the World — I Want to Get Off.” As performed in “Showstopper” and recorded on his eponymous CD at Manhattan’s Nola studio — the last recording before it closed this year — Luttrell rivals the late Sammy Davis Jr. for the intensity of his 1962 rendition. Others on the playlist include Jule Styne’s “Make Someone Happy,” Cy Coleman’s “Hey There, Good Times” and Peter Allen’s “Not the Boy Next Door.”
The songs are arranged by Fred Barton, whose orchestra accompanied Luttrell at Feinstein’s/54 Below. “I’m performing at Off-Key Tikki with a recorded track,” Luttrell says. “With a $10 cover, you can’t afford a live orchestra. But if the show goes well and we get some extra dates, I’m hoping we can do that.”
SOUTH SHORE ‘PACIFIC’
Luttrell finds the supper club/Polynesian beach vibe manufactured by Off-Key Tikki intriguing. Nine summers ago, owner Mike Bruemmer had fine sand hauled in to create a “beach” in front of the outdoor stage where pastel plastic chairs are arrayed for concerts. Two dozen or so palm trees are pulled out and replaced each spring at a cost of $10,000 — they can’t survive Long Island winters. Signposts point to distant resorts where palms flourish, such as Key West and Waikiki.
Bruemmer says he created the venue as a “make-believe fantasy island where you can party every night” to music ranging from oldies to dance bands.
As for “Off-Key,” the name refers not at all to the vocals onstage but to the Patchogue location not qualifying as a coral reef island.
“Tikki culture was all the rage in California with soldiers returning from the Pacific after World War II. Frank Sinatra was a regular at some of these clubs,” Luttrell says. Trader Vic’s, for instance, became an international chain. “The big-band music from that time — everybody has a grandmother who listened to that music,” he continued, adding, “If it wasn’t a tikki club out West, the big bands ruled supper clubs like the Copacabana and the Latin Quarter. There aren’t a lot of people of my generation singing these songs anymore. We hope to change that.”
Jesse Luttrell’s ‘American Showstoppers’
WHEN | WHERE 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 7; July 5, and Aug. 2
WHERE Off-Key Tikki, 31 Baker Place, Patchogue
INFO 631-475-1723, offkeytikki.com
ADMISSION $15 ($10 advance)