Written by Paulanne Simmons
Amy Oestreicher’s show at The Triad (158 West 72 St.) is called “Gutless & Grateful: A Musical Feast.” It’s a good title for a singer whose stomach was removed after it exploded during surgery to remove a blood clot. But it certainly does not convey the exceptional courage and fortitude of this talented young lady. In that sense, Amy Oestreicher is anything but gutless.
Oestreicher was a teenager in love with theater when her troubles struck. First she was sexually abused by her piano teacher. Then (and she somehow ties the two together in her mind) she became ill. It took 24 surgeries and over three years before Amy completely recovered and was able to eat again. This show is a celebration of her return to life and to her first love, performing.
Oestreicher’s story is always inspirational and sometimes funny. It’s hard not to laugh when Oestreicher says that after hours and hours of boredom, leaving her room for a CAT scan was a “field trip.” Her recounting of the time (still dressed in a hospital gown) she left the hospital with her parents for an unauthorized excursion in Manhattan is proof enough she did not fall into self-pity.
But it’s the music that makes the show not only inspirational but also entertaining. The first songs Oestreicher sings reflect her youthful exuberance: “Just Around the Riverbend,” “Born to Entertain.” The songs take a darker turn when troubles strike: “Say A Prayer for Me Tonight,” “Lost In the Stars,” and “I’d Rather Be Sailing.” Considering Oestreicher’s problems, it should be no surprise that she sings “Food, Glorious Food.”
Even David Friedman and Kathie Lee Gifford wrote a song for her, “Still Alive,” in honor of her appearance on the TODAY show. “Gutless & Grateful” also features “Corner,” a song Oestreicher wrote herself.
The show features musical direction by David Brunetti and a four-piece band led by Jerold Goldstein on piano, Alexandra Eckhardt on bass, Jim Bannow on drums, and Matt Oestreicher (“who also doubles as a great big brother”) on guitar. Goldstein should be commended for never letting the band overwhelm Oestreicher, whose voice (perhaps due to her illness) is exceptionally sweet but not powerful.
“Gutless & Grateful: A Musical Feast” is a moving personal history told with grace and humor, and garnished with great songs sung from the heart. Two additional shows remain – Sunday October 21st at 3pm and Friday October 26th at 7pm
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