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Broadway powerhouse, Carol Woods returned to the internationally acclaimed jazz cabaret, Metropolitan Room on Nov. 12th, 2016 to record her spectacular show AIN’T WE GOT FUN: The Richard Whiting Songbook before a live audience.

Nov. 12th was selected for the recording as it is the eve of Carol's birthday, but also the 125th anniversary of the birth of Richard Whiting, one of the greatest composers of the Great American Songbook.

This magnificent show paid tribute to Carol's mentor and friend Margaret Whiting by giving life to Margaret's father's songs, which have been masterfully arranged by Margaret's musical director of over 23 years, Hubert “Tex” Arnold.

Guests were treated to stylings reminiscent of Carol’s turn as Matron “Mama” Morton in Broadway’s CHICAGO and her soulful performance of LET IT BE in ACROSS THE UNIVERSE.

The show included musicians Saadi Zain on bass and Stephen Singer on drums.

Carol's electrifying performance, coupled with the spirit of celebration of the evening has made for a sensational LIVE CD that will cause listeners to exclaim, "aint' we got fun" and more!!

See below for reviews

One Hour With You

     Richard Whiting - Leo Robin

Breezin’ Along with the Breeze

     Richard Whiting - Haven Gillespie - Seymour Simons

Got No Time

     Richard Whiting - Gus Kahn

My Ideal

     Richard Whiting - Newell Chase - Leo Robin

Have You Got Any Castles, Baby

     Richard Whiting - Johnny Mercer 

Can’t Teach My Old Heart New Tricks

     Richard Whiting - Johnny Mercer 

Sittin’ on the Curbstone (Blues)

     Richard Whiting - Haven Gillespie - Seymour Simons

Too Marvelous for Words

     Richard Whiting - Johnny Mercer

A Day Away From Town

     Richard Whiting - Gus Kahn - Hubert “Tex” Arnold

Beyond the Blue Horizon

     Richard Whiting - W. Frank Harling - Leo Robin

Gasoline Gypsies

     Richard Whiting - Johnny Mercer

Somebody’s Wrong

     Richard Whiting - Raymond B. Egan - Henry I. Marshall

She’s Funny That Way

     Neil Moret - Richard Whiting

When Did You Leave Heaven

     Richard Whiting - Walter Bullock

Ain’t We Got Fun

     Richard Whiting - Raymond B. Egan - Gus Kahn


Carol Woods has the kind of big blues voice that can move audiences to their feet or to their knees, and has deployed it often on Broadway (including in multiple stints as Mama Morton in Chicago). Now she invites cabaret audiences to come get lost in the Woods in a show devoted to the songs of Tin Pan Alley tunesmith Richard Whiting.

Carol Woods

Ain’t We Got Fun: The Richard Whiting Songbook
Metropolitan Room, NYC, May 11, 2016
Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Photo: Maryann Lopinto 

Photo: Maryann Lopinto

If the air was electric before, it was positively supercharged after the debut of Carols Woods’ Richard Whiting show, Ain’t We Got Fun. From the moment Woods stepped on stage with “One Hour with You” (words: Leo Robin) and “Breezin’ Along with the Breeze” (words: Haven Gillespie, Seymour Simons), it was apparent this undertaking was going to be a spectacular winner. To start with, there was delightful motivation: the show was a family affair—a tribute not only to Richard Whiting, but to Woods’ mentor Margaret Whiting, daughter of the composer, and her friendship with Debbi Whiting, Margaret’s daughter (in attendance). Richard Whiting died too young; when he passed in February 1938 he was only 46 years old. Who can say what he could have written had he lived, but what he left was a prolific body of work fittingly honored in Woods’ performance.

“My Ideal” (co-composed by Whiting with Newell Chase, another Leo Robin lyric) was Margaret Whiting’s first recording and her first gold record and, in her interpretation, Woods took it from gold to platinum. Further into the set with “Have You Got Any Castles, Baby?” (Johnny Mercer’s words) it was absolutely apparent that Woods had made the Whiting songbook her own (also evident with the newly discovered trunk song “A Day Away from Town,” a collaboration with lyricist Gus Kahn, recently introduced by Woods). In this endeavor the diva was aided not only by her own innate skills and sensibilities as a singer and actress, but by the musical direction of accompanist Hubert “Tex” Arnold. Arnold was Margaret Whiting’s music director for 23 years—part of the family. His updated arrangements (such as a subtle Latin beat to “My Ideal”) brought the (mostly 1920s) material into the 21stcentury, beautifully crafted to Woods’ style and persona. Arnold’s playing was inspired, with a clean yet lively and lyrical execution of the keys.

Woods zestfully sang many of Whiting’s well-known songs, such as “Too Marvelous for Words” (words by Mercer as an appealing duet with Arnold), “Beyond the Blue Horizon” (words by Leo Robin, music co-credited to W. Franke Harling), and the closer of the set, “Ain’t We Got Fun” (words by Gus Kahn and Ray Egan). She delivered the touchingly sweet “She’s Funny That Way (I Got a Woman, Crazy for Me)” (based on a love letter Whiting wrote to his wife, Eleanor, the lyric is by Whiting and the music set by Neil Moret aka Charles Daniels), with deep feeling. Woods’ stage training gives her the ability to reach into the lyric, be expressive and connect with the audience in a very natural, comfortable way. She’s also got a great comedic sense and wonderful timing, demonstrated especially in “Sittin’ on the Curbstone Blues” (written with Haven Gillespie and Seymour Simons). With just the right amount of banter between Woods and Arnold, the night was about song, as well it should be. Scott Coulter directed with great touches, keeping the pace moving nicely. Saadi Zain on bass was impressive with subtle bowing especially, while drummer Steve Singer provided beautifully nuanced and supportive percussion.

Carol Woods: Ain’t We Got Fun – The Richard Whiting Songbook
Posted on August 10, 2016 by Alix Cohen in Playing Around

Mama Morton’s been sprung. After years of brightening stages in Kander and Ebb’s Chicago, Carol Woods returns to cabaret with Ain’t We Got Fun – The Richard Whiting Songbook. A tribute to his daughter, friend and mentor, Margaret Whiting, the show features Hubert “Tex” Arnold, Margaret’s Musical Director of over 23 years. Woods doesn’t do things in half-way measures.

“Margaret, you’re humming along, and, by the way, how did you like the song?” comes from a lovely piece of special material written for the iconic vocalist. Words ostensibly spoken by her daddy preface “My Ideal” the first song Margaret ever recorded, her first gold record. (Music credit shared with Newell Chase/lyrics Leo Robin.) Woods appears to be full of ingénue hope, palms open and extend as if welcoming. Latin-tinted drums rob a bit of the sweetness, but we believe ever word.

“Can’t Teach My Old Heart New Tricks” (lyric- Johnny Mercer) is more like a haunting than memory. By the time the arrangement slows to a Gershwinish coda, we’re as unmoored as the performer…but not for long.

“Sittin’ On the Curbstone Blues” erupts in feisty, red hot mama mode punctuated by hand gestures. There’s a fresh chicken fried/I can smell it outside/But it don’t mean a thing to me…complains an errant, locked-out lover. Bright and wry, Woods vocally shrugs, there’s lots of fish in the sea. (Lyric by and music credit shared with Haven Gillespie and Seymour Simons) This artist has known Margaret’s daughter, Debbie Whiting since she was three and distinctly remembers her wailing for fried chicken. A coincidence?

In similar vein, from the distaff side, “Somebody’s Wrong” is a vexed, hip-swingin’ honky-tonk shuffle… Nobody brings candy and things/I’m just nothing to no one it seems…how is this possible she seems to say…the world owes me a lovin’…Just for a moment, Woods assumes a Mae West stance. Don’t they know what they’re missin’?! Somebody’s wra-h-ho-ho-hong! She’s got this! The story-song is ably served by well honed acting chops. (Lyric-Raymond B. Egan/Henry I Marshall)

Arnold tells us that one day, in a stack of old writing by her grandfather, “the keeper of the Whiting flame” (Debbie) found a song called “A Day Away From Town” (lyric-Gus Kahn). The number, in Richard’s handwriting, was so provisional, there were no chord changes. Nor was it copywritten. Arnold filled in the blanks (“melody harmonized by”) and Woods was the first to record it. The vocalist starts low and slopes up as if seeking open spaces.  It’s an easy sway, a deft soft-shoe, skylarking.

A second illuminating story reveals that lyrics for “She’s Funny That Way” – I Got a Woman Crazy for Me were originally a love letter left by Richard for his wife when he was called to Hollywood. Mrs. Whiting asked composer Neil Moret to write music and one of the great ballads was born. Woods sings it with gratitude, surprise and soul. A beautiful song just got more beautiful. Whiting, who clearly might’ve written lyrics too, penned such Hollywood classics as “On the Good ship Lollipop” and “Hooray for Hollywood.”

“Too Marvelous For Words” (lyric-Johnny Mercer) with bass vertebrae and exuberant piano and “Beyond the Blue Horizon” (music credit shared with W. Frank Harling/ lyric- Leo Robin) swung with syncopated beat and happy anticipation bring up the mood. It’s a rendition of 1928’s “Ain’t We Got Fun”, however, that carries us bopping out into the night. Woods is an evangelist for cheer, so full of light, the room resonates with optimism against all odds. (lyric/music credit shared with Raymond B. Egan/Gus Kahn)

Though patter could use a little work, this is an extremely entertaining show. Woods delivers genuine vulnerability and carefree pleasure as well as she does husky-edged lock n’build. Scott Coulter’s Direction is deft.

Good to have you back.

Richard Whiting was a multifaceted composer of songs for vaudeville, records, and films. There are eras during which you can’t musically turn around without brushing against one of his fine tunes.

Photos by Maryann Lopinto


By Sandi Durell

The iconic Carol Woods is full of fun (title of her show “Ain’t We Got Fun”) but it’s much more involved than that. In a tribute to her longtime friendship and alliance with the Whitings – – Richard, Margaret (her mentor) and Debbi – – she tore the house down at her opening night at the Metropolitan Room on August 1 celebrating the memorable music of Richard Whiting. It’s really a love story of chain reactions.

After her long stint as ‘Mama’ Morton on Broadway in Chicago, it was time to carve out a new path. How natural it was to take a step back to where she learned all about the songs from the Great American Songbook and their interpretation from the invincible Margaret Whiting when they met in 1983. Of course, Margaret’s father, the prolific composer Richard Whiting’s music, more than sparks a chord of desire to sing them all.  She was tutored by the best.

With heart-warming backstories, like meeting little Debbi (now keeper of her mother Margaret’s Estate) when she was 3 years old, knocking on Carol’s door asking (no, demanding) fried chicken! And the icing on this cake . . . I mean, the gravy on the chicken, is the addition of Tex Arnold on piano. Tex, after all, had been Margaret’s musical director for nearly 25 years. What a wonderful intertwining of talent and lives.

Carol Woods is a fine, fine singer and actress – blues, jazz, Broadway – with a long list of credits in the biz. When she sings, it's with great heart and spirit, not to mention her amazing vocal expertise.

Carefully choosing Richard Whiting material, all with memorable arrangements by Hubert ‘Tex’ Arnold, his band, including Saadi Zain on bass and Steve Singer on drums, made the evening fly by with songs from the 1920s and 1930s. Songs like “My Ideal” (the first song Margaret recorded) with music credit shared with Newell Chase and words by Leo Robin (1930), was presented bossa style and “Have You Got Any Castles, Baby?” – words by Johnny Mercer (1937), showed off Ms. Woods impeccable range in this tale of woe.

Talk about story songs, 1928 “Sittin’ On the Curbstone (Blues)” {words by & music credit shared with Haven Gillespie & Seymour Simons} . . . watch out for that cleaver! and “She’s Funny That Way” (1928), in reverse roles with words by Richard Whiting/Music by Neil Moret where Carol Woods wailed to the heavens and rightfully received a standing ovation. Oh Mama!

And so it went, as Ms. Woods mesmerized her audience with tunes that also included “Breezin’ Along with the Breeze” (1926 – words by and music credit shared with Haven Gillespie/Seymour Simons); the quintessential “Too Marvelous for Words” (1937, words by Johnny Mercer) or a newly found unpublished Whiting song “A Day Away From Town” with words by Gus Kahn/melody harmonized by Hubert ‘Tex’ Arnold (2011).

Ably directed by Scott Coulter, this was one unforgettable evening of song and talent and, gratefully, will be repeated August 8, 22 & 29 at 8:30 pm. You don’t want to miss this one!!

Photos: Maryann Lopinto

by Todd Brandt

When Carol Woods took to the Metropolitan Room stage to premiere her new show, "AIN'T WE GOT FUN: The Music of Richard Whiting," all of the Diva Essentials were in place: Major hair? Check. Major nails? Check. Major lashes? Check. But what separates the pretenders from the Real Deal is the substance behind the surface glamour, and believe me, Carol Woods is the Real Deal. Her warmth, presence, and above all, her voice filled the room with electricity from the start.

It's a BIG voice, and Carol has the personality to match. In fact, she often reminded me of the legendary, over-the-top jazz diva Dakota Staton, particularly with her slightly vinegary tone and playful, kittenish manner. If Carol seemed completely at ease, even downright frisky, while performing the compositions of Richard Whiting, she had good reason to be: a longtime de facto member of the Whiting family, she was mentored by Richard's daughter, the late, great Margaret Whiting. Making the circle complete for this evening of Whiting song, Margaret's musical director and accompanist of 25 years, Tex Arnold, performed in the same capacity for Carol.

Tex's sympathetic accompaniment and unique arrangements, combined with Carol's powerhouse vocals, breathed new life into these songs, the earliest of which was written nearly 90 years ago. That none of the songs seemed self-consciously "old fashioned" is a testament to the hard work these pros have put into this show, and the care they've taken with the material. A slight bossa nova beat, for instance, gave "My Ideal" a new sheen of sophistication, wholly appropriate for an adult woman's interpretation of the lyric, rather than that of a yearning ingenue. Perhaps the most stunning arrangement of the evening was "Can't Teach My Old Heart New Tricks," with metronome-like piano lines rendering it evocative of someone sitting alone and desolate in their apartment, listening to the building creak and the clock tick. 

However, as impressive as these performances were, what really sent the audience into a frenzy were the rollicking uptempo numbers, beginning with the tongue-in-cheek "Have You Got Any Castles, Baby?", which Carol delivered with devilish glee. Even better, and more rafter-raising, were two blues numbers, "Sittin' on the Curbstone" and "Somebody's Wrong," the former delivered with rumbustuous comic wit, and the latter torn into as if if were her last meal. Other highlights included a clever medley of "Beyond the Blue Horizon" and "Gasoline Gypsies" (which also slyly interpolated a familiar vamp from the Broadway musical "Chicago," with which Carol has a years-long association as Mama Morton) and the precious discovery of a previously unfinished, unpublished  collaboration between Whiting and Gus Kahn, "A Day Away from Town," newly harmonized by Tex Arnold and now introduced by Carol.

The set wound down with stellar performances of two of Whiting's best known ballads, ones which are also closely associated with formidable, legendary ladies: "She's Funny That Way," well known to many from Billie Holiday's gender-switching hit recording, and "When Did You Leave Heaven?", which became one of Nancy Wilson's signature tunes. That Carol made both songs completely her own, and in those moments, erased the memory of Holiday and Wilson's beautiful recordings, is no small feat, and taken together, made for an emotionally soaring close to a well-constructed program. The coda for the evening, of course, had to be the Whiting song which gives the show its title; I won't give any "spoilers," but suffice to say, Carol's funny take on this well-worn chestnut ends the show on a...high note. 

Besides the talents of Carol and Tex, this show benefits tremendously from the smart, well-paced direction of Scott Coulter and the contributions of bassist Saadi Zahn and drummer Steve Singer (who was particularly slick on this evening). Time tested material given a fresh, sparkling spin, expertly performed by a Real Deal Diva? We got fun, indeed.