The Cabaret Chronicles: Jennifer Sheehan, Steve Sieck, Alex Getlin, and Jarrod Spector!
One of the things I love about cabaret in New York City is the variety. There are different rooms with different feels, and shows run the gamut from Great American Songbook shows to shows of original material to shows featuring pop, rock, and other styles. I recently had the happy experience to enjoy four outstanding shows in four days - each of them with their own distinct style, but all extremely well-executed! The first was on Friday, May 13th - and despite the ominous-sounding date, I considered myself quite lucky to have caught Jennifer Sheehan at The Metropolitan Room in an encore performance of her show You Made Me Love You: Celebrating 100 Years of the Great American Songbook. The show was a delight from start to finish, as Ms. Sheehan took her enraptured audience on a journey though a century's worth of terrific musical material. Proving that the Great American Songbook still continues to be written, she included modern composers such as John Bucchino, Adam Guettel, and Susan Warner alongside the likes of Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, and Rodgers & Hammerstein. A Juilliard-trained vocalist, Ms. Sheehan's powerful vocals were well-supported by excellent acting chops, to boot! Number after number was met with whoops and extended applause. One of my personal favorites was the tongue-twisting tour-de-force, "If You Hadn't, But You Did," which was written by the legendary songwriting team of composer Jule Styne and lyricists Comden & Green, which she knocked out of the park. Superb accompaniment was provided throughout the evening my musical director James Followell on piano and Jered Egan on bass. Thank you to Ms. Sheehan for proving that the legacy of the Great American Songbook continues, and that its future is in very capable hands!
The following day, I headed to Don't Tell Mama to see cabaret newcomer Steve Sieck in his debut show, Better Late Than Never. And yes, better late than never, indeed! After a 20-year hiatus from songwriting, Mr. Sieck is back at it, and if the material I heard at his show is any indication, the world is going to be hearing a lot more from him! His songs are catchy, easy to listen to, and reminiscent of the jazzy standards written in the '40s and '50s. One in particular, "My Side of Town," was written with the marvelous Marilyn Maye in mind, and at the time of the show, Mr. Sieck had just received word that Ms. Maye is adding the song to her repertoire! I, myself, spent the rest of the weekend humming the tune, so it's no wonder Ms. Maye snatched it up! Another of my favorites was an original duet called "After Five," which tells the story of a secret office romance. Guest vocalist Karen Thompson joined Mr. Sieck for this and they both did an excellent job with it! In addition to his promising original material, Mr. Sieck also covered some of his favorite songs by other composers, including Leonard Cohen's "I'm You're Man," Cole Porter's "I Concentrate on You," and Irving Berlin's "How Deep Is the Ocean (How High Is the Sky)." Superb musical direction and piano accompaniment was provided by Rick Jensen, and the show was ably directed by cabaret veteran Lina Koutrakos. It was a thoroughly enjoyable show, and Mr. Sieck's warm, smooth baritone, easygoing manner, and terrific compositions are a welcome addition to the New York cabaret scene!
On Sunday evening, I headed to Feinstein's at Loews Regency to see the young, lovely, and talented Alex Getlin, who was presented by Mr. Michael Feinstein, himself! Aptly titled "You're Gonna Hear From Me," the show was well-crafted, well performed, and extremely well-received! At 17 years of age, with things like proms and college applications to worry about, many teenagers have never even seen a cabaret show, let alone presented one - and a stellar one, at that! Displaying a wisdom and a maturity that belie her tender years, Ms. Getlin carried herself with the utmost poise and professionalism, yet allowed her youthful joy and exuberance to shine through in her performance. It was a refreshing, exciting, and delightfully FUN show! In a set list filled with many standards from Broadway and the Great American Songbook, new life was breathed into some old favorites. For instance, "If I Were A Bell," Frank Loesser's gem from Guys and Dolls, was suddenly a song about a giddy teenager experiencing the first thrills of romance. "A Lot Of Livin' To Do," written by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams for Bye Bye Birdie, a song which has worked its way into the repertoire of standards singers across the world, was once again given the freshness of being sung by a high school student, as was originally intended in the context of the musical. Another Frank Loesser song, the wordy, zippy "Can't Stop Talking," was a showstopper, as Ms. Getlin barely broke a sweat charging through the challenging lyrics at breakneck speed. Attention was also paid to newer composers, such as award-winning songwriter Joe Iconis. His "Joey Is A Punk Rocker," a song about a girl falling for the wrong kind of guy, was a perfect choice for Ms. Getlin, and she did an excellent job with it. The show was ably directed by cabaret veteran Scott Coulter, who deserves kudos for his part in creating such a smooth, polished show while still allowing the young songstress to be herself and have fun on stage. Mr. Feinstein, too, deserves credit for recognizing and nurturing the talent of this star-to-be. One of the many highlights of the show occurred when he joined her onstage for a duet - the two joined forces for a wonderful "How About You," much to the delight of the crowd. The show closed with a rousing performance of the title song, which one can only hope is a promise - if this show is any indication, the world should, indeed be hearing a LOT from Alex Getlin in the coming years!
The following night, I returned to Feinstein's to see another fantastic show - this time it was Jarrod Spector, star of Broadway's Jersey Boys, in his show "Minor Fall, Major Lift." Suave, charming, and one of the best pop vocalists I've ever heard - what's not to like?! From top to bottom, this was a simply phenomenal show. Filled with excellent song selections from the '50s through the present, the show was nonstop fun from the moment Mr. Spector stepped onstage. To the best of my knowledge, I've never heard Led Zeppelin covered in a cabaret show. And if I have, it most certainly was not sandwiched between covers of the Beatles and Barry Manilow! Yet, there it was, "Rock & Roll" on the stage at Feinstein's, preceded by "Oh! Darling!" and followed by "Even Now." And Mr. Spector sounded incredible on all three of them! And that little snippet of the show is just the tip of the iceberg - everything from Neil Sedaka to Leonard Cohen to Hall & Oates was included. In between the songs, Mr. Spector shared entertaining personal anecdotes, giving the audience a glimpse into the life of one of Broadway's hottest young stars. From singing Bobby Darin songs on Star Search as a 6-year old, to dropping out of Princeton, to moving to New York and auditioning for Jersey Boys, the stories were interesting and enjoyable, and delivered in a casual, candid way, creating a very nice rapport between performer and audience. Top-notch accompaniment was provided throughout the evening by Musical Director Adam Ben-David on piano, Jake Schwartz on guitar, Mat Fieldes on Bass, Dan Willis on horns, Damien Bassman on drums, and Teresa Gattison and Rachel Stern on backup vocals. It was, from start to finish, a spectacular show - full of interesting, unexpected song choices, first-rate musicianship, and amazing vocals. Here's hoping that Mr. Spector makes a return to the nightclub stage very soon!
That's about all for this edition of the Cabaret Chronicles, but check back for a new article soon!
Pictured: Michael Feinstein and Alex Getlin