BWW Review: AN EVENING WITH JUAN PABLO DI PACE Melds Old Hollywood Glamor with Rock Star Electricity At The Green Room 42
It is apropos that, as a child, Juan Pablo Di Pace idolized the works of Michelangelo, and that he made a hobby of drawing in the style of the famed artist because Juan Pablo Di Pace gives every appearance of having, himself, been touched by god. There is nothing on display in his show AN EVENING WITH Juan Pablo Di Pace that isn't beautiful, from his face to his heart, from his fashion to his skill. His singing voice is beautiful, and the way he uses it when telling stories is beautiful. The way he moves is beautiful, and the emotions he expresses when chatting with his audience are beautiful. In fact, the word that most readily comes to mind when describing Mr. Di Pace's show is Beautiful. Juan Pablo Di Pace can't help it, it is an innate quality that walks in the room with him because Beauty is as Beauty does.
Juan Pablo Di Pace is ready to lay it on the line. He is poised for the next step, the next chapter, the next big thing; and what he wants his next big thing to be is, clearly, rooted in song and dance. He openly expresses his wish for the Broadway stage, and rightly so because Broadway and Di Pace belong together. The man was born to be a star and no mistake, and while he has been working in film and television, building up a name for himself, it is obvious that his greatest achievement is yet to come - and it should surprise no one if, when it happens, it involves music. With this package, it is a wonder why a producer, director, or developer hasn't got their hands on him and locked him into something already - and if they haven't yet, then someone needs to get started on building a show around him because he has the IT factor, that thing that goes beyond a person's ability to act, to sing, or to dance. He possesses all those skills, in the extreme, plus that extra something that makes an actor a person you just can't take your eyes off of.
With his show An Evening With Juan Pablo Di Pace, Mr. Di Pace is introducing himself to his audience by sharing his love of the cabaret art form, his passion for performing, and the story of how he got to where he is. Self-penned, the engaging evening describes his youthful start and the usual struggles that face actors trying to make it -- though it is possible Di Pace may not have struggled quite as much as many other actors do, indeed, at times it sounds like Di Pace has lead a pretty charmed life. Sure, there were childhood bullies, financial hardships, and public embarrassments, but nothing any worse than most people go through in their lives, that is why it is so important that Di Pace tells his stories with wit and charm, which he does, adeptly, causing an already adoring audience to situate themselves even further in his corner. With that exquisite voice of his, Di Pace presents a wonderfully eclectic mixture of songs, each of them carefully chosen to represent his life experience, and even though the transitions from dialogue into song can, at times, necessitate a stretch of the imagination, once he gets into the song, any clumsiness in the writing of the script melts clean away, so strong is his ability as a musical storyteller. Boldly choosing to open his show with a ballad, Di Pace lets the audience know, immediately, that the musical feast for which they are in store is quality akin to the most expensive, luxurious, decadent meal in which one ever indulged. Throughout the evening, Di Pace slides back and forth between Broadway tunes, pop music, and Latin fare, making the stylistic changes with such ease that one wonders why he isn't a pop star, especially once he begins dancing, allowing his inner showman to come out, like a famed Las Vegas entertainer or International headliner. There is no self-consciousness here, Juan Pablo Di Pace has come to deliver and he holds nothing back in his singing and dancing, to the benefit and delight of his fans.
Di Pace might, though, be holding back a little in his rhetoric. There are times when the performance feels rather locked into a script designed to protect him from scrutiny. This doesn't happen throughout the show, as he is extremely open about the unpleasant flip side to doing Dancing With The Stars -- his candor about the show is quite refreshing, particularly when discussing social media derision and judgment. This chapter of Di Pace's play is a most welcome one because it gives his audience a multi-dimensional look at who he is. It isn't enough to be one of the most talented, attractive, charismatic people on the face of the earth, the admirers and fans want a taste of who Juan Pablo Di Pace is, how he thinks, what he feels, and the honest conversation about Dancing With The Stars gives them that. It is a factor that Mr. Di Pace could layer into the evening a few more times, thus bringing the crowd even closer. He mentions sacrifices he has made for his work, important familial events he has missed but doesn't share how it made him feel. Di Pace discusses when he was a broke, out of work actor -- but every actor has been broke and out of work, the question is: what was that like for Juan Pablo Di Pace? Juan Pablo confesses that he hoped being in the movie Mama Mia would change his life but it didn't, and one wonders what that experience did to him. It is in the sharing of these personal reactions to life's adversities that the audience comes to know the man that they already love, and if Mr. Di Pace could find a way in which he feels comfortable sharing these intimacies, it would increase the audience experience in ways everyone, including himself, would find valuable.
Musically, this show is infallible. From Di Pace's choice of songs to Music Director Charlie Alterman's arrangements, from Juan Pablo's dazzling vocals to the band's lush melodies, not to mention JPDP's physical command of the stage, it's all an incredibly satisfying night of theater. Particularly noteworthy in the setlist are songs originally sung by George Michael and songs written by Juan Pablo Di Pace, though this writer's personal favorite of the evening was a haunting "Both Sides Now" that Juan Pablo needs to record immediately, for it is absolutely stunning. And while the arc and the script of the show might benefit from some slight revisitation, what Juan Pablo Di Pace is presenting at The Green Room 42 is an exciting evening filled with beautiful music and a star who may not be emerging, but one that is most definitely on the rise. Mr. Di Pace is so entertaining and so gifted a performer that he possesses the magical ability to melt a heart with just the right gaze from his piercing eyes or the perfect note, rising out of the crock of gold that is his voicebox. There is a special quality about him, as a person and as a performer, and spending 70 minutes with Juan Pablo as he serves up healthy doses of Cary Grant's dapper, George Michael's sexy, Tom Jones' thrilling, and Elijah Wood's pathos all rolled up in his uniquely individual humanity, is enough to make this writer seriously consider canceling his Saturday night to attend the next performance.
Or I could just wait until he lands on Broadway and see him then - because it's just a matter of time, and one hopes that time comes soon, very, very, soon. Are you listening Broadway? Juan Pablo Di Pace is calling - pick up the phone.
Juan Pablo Di Pace's Band:
Music Director, Charlie Alterman
Bass, Michael Blanco
Cello, Mary Dormand
Guitar, Simon Kafka
Drums, Eric Halvorson
Photos by Stephen Mosher