BWW Review: Kim David Smith Takes Alt-Cabaret to a Fantasia Level With His Electro-Show At Joe's Pub
Some performers push the envelope. In the case of Kim David Smith, no avant-garde, gender-bending, or mainstream artist dancing in the cabaret arena today takes more risks. Never was this more in evidence than in his brand new show, Stargazing at Joe's Pub on October 8. Few artists work harder to express themselves through the increasingly visible alt-cabaret genre than Smith. He doesn't just break glass ceilings he crashes them with a jackhammer. To accomplish this, he seamlessly re-imagines Weimar-era, neo-classicism and Berlin-channeling cabaret at every turn the likes of which have not been seen since Marlene Dietrich in the 1930 film, The Blue Angel.
The subtitle of his act is called An Electro-Cabaret Fantasia. Using words, music, illusion, synthetic sounds, and boundless energy, Smith spans the 1920s through today. The show also features original songs from his albums (Nova and Supernova), as well as uniquely reinvented pop and show classics in French and German and disco dance collaborations that include eclectic works by the likes of Kurt Weill, Edith Piaf, Kylie Minogue, Olivia Newton-John, Friedrich Hollaender, Marlene Dietrich, and Madonna. He calls it all . . . an electronic re-imagining of constellations of stars from yesterday and today. Directed with intelligence and skill by Michael Rader of Cirque du Soleil/musical theater fame, the imaginative act showcases Smith's exceptional talents that have gained the Australian performer wide recognition on the world stage.
Singing in a gentle lyric baritone, Smith poured a lot of emotion and energy into every song and complex medley. He quickly established a solid rapport with the audience and his between song banter was amusing. He even joked about the audience getting their $16 (cover) worth of entertainment. This balanced some of the more serious musical material. Making a casual, unannounced entrance from the rear (in an outfit designed by Miodrag Guberinic) was a significant part of the visual creation unfolding on stage. He wore a form-fitting dark suit with no shirt and patent leather stilettos. Later, he donned a top hat. Soon, he discarded the jacket revealing a large, mirrored corset that completed the illusion. One couldn't help being reminded of the "Emcee" in Cabaret.
Smith created a strong opening with "The Singer" that segued into a mash-up of Piaf's "Padam," with Kylie Minogue's "Can't Get You Out of My Head." Weill's fascinating "Barbarasong" (from Three Penny Opera) became a haunting musical monologue which informs a seductive "Jonny, Wenn du Geburstag Hast" and "Erotica," an engaging suite that captivated the room. Such musical moments both clash with and complement each other and that is the idea. He appropriately includes the seductive "Illusions" between "I Should Be So Lucky" and "A Little Yearning" for another medley that is particularly effective. Such Weimar inspired works juxtaposed with authentic musical material (such as his song "Shooting Star" in the video below) created imaginative takes on unusual pairings while casting a spell over the his audience.
It all works and Smith's musical journey also incorporates songs that are arresting and provoking. In lesser hands this could have been much too risky. But, it wasn't all heavy stuff. He had great fun with "The Trolley Song" from the Judy Garland film Meet Me In St. Louis, "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" from Mary Poppins, "Octopussy" from the James Bond film, and Olivia Newton-John's "Physical." Before closing, he delivered a trenchant reading of "God Is In the House," a riveting anthem by Australian rock idol Nick Cave that created a pin-dropper moment that silenced the room. This simple, bucolic hymn might have given Smith his best moment in an otherwise unorthodox show overflowing with lascivious innuendos, gestures and a dose of shuck and jive. It's all there in this stellar production performed by a latter-day vaudevillian from an age we'll never see again. Smith is a visionary without borders who might just be the David Bowie of Cabaret.
The hard working band couldn't have been better. Music direction was by Benjamin Ickies on synthesizer and accordion, with Tracy Stark on piano and Kevin Garcia on percussion.
From This Author John Hoglund