Actor/Singer Bernard Dotson Brings Rollicking Unexpected Songs to Sterling's
On Sunday June 29 handsome singer Bernard Dotson brought his unique friendly style and self-proclaimed big black man powerhouse voice to an SRO crowd at Sterling's Upstairs at the Federal with his debut cabaret show Unexpected Songs, which recently played the Metropolitan Room in New York. This very talented Los Angeles-born man has a passion for the arts that stretches back 18 years when he was singing for Disney Cruises and eventually in 6 different Broadway shows.
Unexpected Songs covers Dotson's journey throughout his career with great showmanship, accompanied by a 4 piece band and 2 backup singers. Dotson expressed how happy he is to be doing this kind of show - it's been a dream of his for years - and how he wishes to expand it into two hours with costumes, props and more special guests. As is, it's a whole lot of musical fun. Musical director par excellence Tracy Stark leads the terrific combo with Terry Wollman on guitar, Ricky Taylor on bass and Johnny Friday on drums. Strong singers Connie Jackson and Jeannie Montana serve as backup and guest soloists. There is also a special appearance by Broadway singer Rick Negron, who joins Dotson onstage for a rousing duet.
Highlights of the 75 minute set include "It's a Miracle", in full rockin' swing - it really brought the house into rhythmical hand-clapping unison. There follows a fun Disney medley: "I Wanna Be Like You", "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah", "I'm Late" and "It's a Small World". Dotson is delightful in his display of comedic charm as he talks about the Tokyo reception of the Disney show and does a sensational comedy turn on "Part of Your World" in which he, his way, became part of the 'black' world of entertainers. Following this there's a rousing "New York City Rhythm" and a 7 number, what Dotson calls, an obligatory Broadway section to include the shows he did: Ragtime, Jesus Christ Superstar, Chicago, Sweet Smell of Success, Chess and several workshops of the new Tony winning Beautiful. Standout renditions are his "Laughing All the Way to the Bank" from Sweet Smell of Success - that he recorded on the cast album, a great salute to Marvin Hamlisch with "Fallin" and "They're Playing Our Song" from the 1979 show of the same name - which premiered at the Music Centre here when Dotson was an usher - and a stellar duet with Jeannie Montana on "I Know Him So Well" from Chess. "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling", the Righteous Brothers song that Dotson sang in workshops of Beautiful is dynamically rendered together with Negron, in very fine voice. There's also a fab duet with Connie Jackson "Love Me/Don't" from Smokey Joe's Cafe and the piece de resistance "Mr. Bojangles" where Dotson gets to display some lovely graceful moves as well as a delightfully powerful vocal performance of the song in salute to his idol Sammy Davis Jr. There's a poignant "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying" as finale and as encore Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Unexpected Song", which fills out the title of Dotson's show.
Some lucky people will get to see Bernard Dotson tonight at the Federal as he repeats the show at 8 pm. He calls himself an enabler and from the passion and charisma he puts forth in every song, that is obvious, making him one helluva an entertainer that you do not want to miss. To see if reservations remain for tonight's show, call:
818-754-8700 or visit www.msapr.net
Dotson with club host Michael Sterling