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Deborah Tranelli: A Lot of Livin’

Right around the time Manilow’s remarkable, seven-year streak of million-selling hits ended with the plaintive “I Made It Through the Rain,” TV audiences were warming up to pert Deborah Tranelli. For 11 seasons, Tranelli helped heighten the appeal of primetime’s sudsy Dallas as Bobby Ewing’s ever-faithful secretary, Phyllis. If memory serves, not once during all those oil-stained episodes did Phyllis ever leap up from behind her faux mahogany desk to belt out a show tune or pop standard. So, it comes as a bit of a surprise, albeit a welcome one, to discover that the just-shy-of-50 actress is also a first-rate singer. Throughout her splendidly polished debut disc, A Lot of Livin’ (PS Classics), Tranelli shimmers and sparkles, suggesting the sassy theatrical savvy of Jessica Molaskey and vocal authority of Ann Hampton Callaway while navigating territory both familiar (Arlen and Mercer’s “Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home,” Rodgers and Hart’s “Little Girl Blue”) and new (Marie Cain’s deliciously salty condemnation of chauvinistic pig-headedness, “Mattress in the Kitchen”). It’s great to hear as assured a performer as Tranelli lovingly preserve and protect such lesser-known treasures as Paul Rolnick and Bill Soden’s soaring “Like the Heavens Hold the Stars,” Stephen Schwartz and Steven Lutvak’s bittersweetly reflective “Rewriting History” and John Bucchino and Lindy Robbins’ love-affirming “Gentle Souls and Tenderhearted Fools”-and what she does to Portia Nelson’s urbanely romantic “It’s the Little Things” is more powerfully entertaining than Sue Ellen on a three-day bender.

Originally Published