In that brief period between the “Lollipop, Lollipop” 1950s and the British Invasion of 1964, teen idols like Dion, Ricky Nelson, and Bobby Vee were topping the charts with their blend of All American good looks and bubblegum pop.

And then there was singer-songwriter Gene Pitney.


Gene’s music had a kind of raw emotion and dramatic flair that set him apart from his peers. “Town Without Pity” wasn’t Gene Pitney’s biggest hit (it only made it to #13 on Billboard’s Top 100), but it’s probably the song Gene remains most identified with. Its bluesy, almost sleazy background track and plaintive lyrics (“It isn’t very pretty what a town without pity can do”) were the epitome of the teen angst that Gene captured perhaps better than anyone else in that bridge between the Eisenhower ‘50s and the Vietnam ‘60s.

Town Without Pity: The Love Songs Of Gene Pitney, a four-man musical revue conceived and directed by Richard Hochberg and produced by Sherry Kinison, pays light-hearted, affectionate tribute to Gene and to the songs and styles of the early 1960s.

For about an hour, it’s four of our finest young triple-threats, a piano, and the songs and moves of the Gene Pitney era, making for one of the best and most entertaining cabaret acts in town.


Will Collyer, Justin Cowden, P.J. Griffith, and Joe Settineri are four very different types with very different voices who together evoke vocal and choreographic memories of the early ‘60s, singing a dozen and a half of Gene’s Greatest Hits, either songs which he himself made famous, or Pitney creations which became hits for other recording stars of the era.

“(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance,” “Only Love Can Break a Heart,” “Half Heaven – Half Heartache,” “Mecca,” “Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa,” “It Hurts to Be In Love,” “I’m Gonna Be Strong,” “Looking Through the Eyes of Love,” and “Backstage” are just some of the Gene Pitney hits which Town Without Pity’s Fab Four sing to perfection, in addition to The Crystals’ “He’s a Rebel” and Ricky Nelson’s “Hello Mary Lou,” two of the many hits Gene wrote for other song stars.


With musical director Jonathan Daddis providing impeccable piano accompaniment and choreographer Janet Roston supplying the boys with signature synchronized ‘60s moves, Collyer, Cowden, Griffith, and Settineri each gets his fair share of solos, with the other three singing backup. At other times the four join voices in perfect ‘60s harmony, from Griffith’s rock baritone to Settinari’s soaring tenor, with Collyer and Cowden filling in the middle notes gorgeously.

Between songs, the foursome clue the audience in on Gene Pitney’s career, his music, and just how he fit into the music world of his day—an education for younger audience members and a nostalgic look back at their teen years for Boomers in attendance.


Town Without Pity makes for as entertaining an hour of cabaret as any I’ve seen in the past few years. If the response of last night’s audience of 20-to-60somethings is any indication, I’m not the only one to have had a terrific time.

–Steven Stanley
June 28, 2010

The Comedy Store, Los Angeles

Comments are closed.