The "Church of Show Tunes" is in joyous session seven nights a week at Marie’s Crisis, a basement piano bar that has a pedigree and an atmosphere like no other. In a low-ceilinged room, covered with Christmas lights, dozens of men (and some women) gather each evening to belt out Sondheim, Porter, Loesser and Rodgers and Hammerstein. A few times an evening, the roving bartenders will take a solo, but for the most part the crowd sings in a booming chorus, usually while grinning ear to ear. The drinks are cheap, the crowd friendly and the voices darn good.
Marie’s Crisis has been in business a good 40 years now, but the history of the building goes back to the 1800’s (legend has it the ceiling beams were taken from old ships). Thomas Paine, author of "Common Sense" and "The Crisis", lived and died in this house, which explains the "crisis" part of the name. And after serving as a brothel from the 1850’s to the late 1880’s, it became a "boy bar" in the 1890’s called “Marie’s”. The mural behind the piano was created by the Works Progress Administration under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (lord knows why it’s here!); it portrays both the French and the American revolutions.
- Pauline Frommer