Tuesday, September 21, 2010

NYTVF ’10: Gelber and Manning in Pictures

Gelber and Manning’s act is sort of like jazz for the steampunk set. Though they are certainly not neo-Victorian, their retro-flapper era personas and hot-jazz-Tin Pan Alley music is tailored made for dandified play-acting. They have taken their theatrical presentation viral, with the webisode Gelber and Manning in Pictures (trailer here), directed by James Lester, which screens this week as part of the 2010 New York Television Festival’s Independent Pilot Competition.

Gelber is a rag-stride piano player. Manning is the canary. Together they are a smash on the nightclub circuit. They seem like a natural for moving pictures, but down-on-his-luck mogul Bernie Standard must sell them to his underworld “investors.” Indeed, these shadowy mobsters should present plenty of conflict should Pictures advance beyond its first eleven minutes.

Gelber and Manning have built a legit cult following, having made a fair amount of publicity hay from playing Blake Lively’s birthday party (so, she’s the new “It Girl,” evidently). Refreshingly though, they look like real people, which is why the taciturn Mr. Mangene wants to “lose the guy.”

As drama, Pictures is an okay distraction, but the music is really good fun. In fact, the pilot’s central number “Mr. Monaco” is a rather catchy little ditty. Their band is also quite strong, including the impressive trumpeter Charlie Caranicas, a veteran of similarly inspired groups, like Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks, the Flying Neutrinos, and the Rainbow Room Orchestra.

It would be a happy event if Pictures found the backing to continue. After all, anything that produces more jazz gigs is all to the good. Well worth checking out, Pictures screens at the Tribeca Cinemas tonight (9/21) and Thursday (9/22) as part the Drama program 2 in NYTVF’s IPC completion.