BWW Reviews: Tom Wopat - Love Swings Live at The Cabaret at The Columbia Club
Quite often when listening to a singer you think, "Oh, that's what he can do." Once in rare while you listen and think, "I can't wait to hear what else he can do."
So it was with Mr. Tom Wopat when he jauntily ambled onto the poshest stage in town, The Cabaret at The Columbia Club, Indianapolis. The three-time Tony Award-nominee ('99, '08, '11) of stage and screen shared samples from his musical works, including his most recent CD, Tom Wopat: Consider it Swung.
Stepping out from The Shadows of another performer is difficult at best. Stepping out from one's own shadow is more difficult. Made even more so if that shadow is known world-wide and the steps take you into an unfamiliar-to-fans arena. Starting over, Re-branding oneself is tough -- just ask Cher. However, if, and I do mean if, it works then you can never be stereotyped again. By anyone. That's a feeling that comes from inside and can't be taken away.
Wopat has accomplished just such a feat. Rather than staying in the shadow as a wise-crackin' country bumpkin, the actor-singer-songwriter created a new shadow -- and a little bit of a swagger that can only come from having hung by his fingertips and successfully climbed back on top -- one performance at a time.
Covering songs is the norm. Twisting, tweaking and tossing them about until they are your own shows a true talent and desire to raise your own bar, expanding into new areas. Wopat offers his customized versions of (Somewhere) Over the Rainbow, Let's do it, Let's Fall in Love and I Get Along Without You Very Well. Credit for the renditions was given by the singer to his collaborators: producer and bass player, David Finck and pianist Jason Sherbundy (Smash, Catch Me if You Can).
I last saw Wopat in Indianapolis in 2009 performing the role of Billy Flynn in Chicago. Switching gears throughout his show this past weekend reminded me of that performance in his ability to slow down, speed up and, seemingly, flip moods. In one moment you are drawn into his own haunting Thailand Seas, then bobbing to the brassy Jet Song and finally, laughing during the utterly delightful Making Whoopee. Showing his impish side, the crooner admits his past scoundrel ways complete with several ex wives, allowing his dimples to show ever so slightly.
Best demonstrating the star's strong baritone vocals was The Moon's a Harsh Mistress sans a microphone. Just a man, a song and emotions. Raw emotions.
A new musical work, as yet untitled, will be released in early 2013. Receiving two CDs from Wopat, I listened to the Broadway cast recording of Annie Get Your Gun in which he starred with the ever-adorable Bernadette Peters.
Then I listened to Consider it Swung.
And listened. And listened again. In fact, I am still listening to it.
The only criticism I have is that Wopat didn't share with Indianapolis a live version of his That's Life, Ode to Billie Joe and Deacon Blues. Exactly why they create CDs, I suppose. Each is worth the price by itself. (This one is available at TomWopat.net.)
Bottom Line: Stepping out of his own shadow, Tom Wopat may well become known as a different type of duke...the Duke of Swing.
For upcoming performances, tickets and directions, visit TheCabaret.org or call 317-275-1169.
Images: Mark Lee
Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a fine-living syndicated columnist, travel writer, performing arts and restaurant critic. Gotta Go is published on Gottago.us, BroadwayWorld.com, in M magazine and several Indianapolis-area newspapers. Catch her newest column, Infused at GottaGo.us and FoodandDrinkDigital.com and as Indy’s Entertainment Adviser on 93 WIBC. Follow her on Twitter @GottaGo, LinkedIn and Facebook.