BWW Review: By Elegantly Examining Sexual Duality, David Vernon's Sensitive LOVE: THE CONCERT at the Metropolitan Room Is Singularly Enthralling
Strange, enchanted boy David Vernon swept through the Metropolitan Room last Thursday night, greeting guests on his way to the stage. He cut a dashing, old-world figure in his long, fitted coat and austere, angular posture. The man possesses style. Opening his show LOVE: The Concert with Eden Abhez's 1941 beauty "Nature Boy," Vernon wove lines of dialogue into the singing, telling the beginnings of the spare yet vivid tale he would unspool over the course of the evening; the story of his two true loves, both men, which also contained the revelation of his own dual identities--masculine and feminine.
Vernon's voice is a disciplined instrument. His intonation and dynamics were impeccable all evening, and his aura saturated each tune, rendering them all uniquely his own. The show is one part of what he calls The LOVE Trilogy--or perhaps more accurately, a triptych--which consists of a cabaret show, a CD recording, and an original musical called Beloved. Vernon hopes to release the The LOVE Album CD by Valentine's Day 2016. Each piece of the trilogy is a separate project, but all explore the same concept. (See video highlights of the Metropolitan Room show below.)
Not only is Vernon a skilled vocalist, his sound is lovely and emotive. His Musical Director Alex Leonard played with complimentary stylish restraint, conjuring French films from the 1960s and '70s. The choice of material was elegant and urbane, including a couple of Brazilian tunes (Antonio Carlos Jobim's "How Insenstive" for one), a moving bluesy "I Never Has Seen It Snow" (Harold Arlen/Truman Capote), and a haunting rendition of Noel Coward's "Mad About the Boy." I heard shades of Eartha Kitt in Vernon's voice, as he purred over the man who made him "ready to be a husband." He then revealed that the love affairs became a love triangle, as he mournfully delivered George and Ira Gershwin's "How Long Has This Been Going On" and in the heat of it all, Vernon flung off his coat to reveal a puffy shirt reminiscent of Seinfeld's doomed late night apparel. Vernon carried it off, oozing Nosferatu chic.
Vernon offered one pure pop composition in his set; the singer chose Gino Vanelli's deep cut "Omens of Love" to show appreciation for "those two people who showed me the two of me." I didn't know the song, but I recognized Vernon's clever, subtle inclusion of signifying pop vocal ornaments during the number.
The complicated romantic drama, told in story and song, turns ironic and sad, yet ultimately revelatory. The taut, lean yet rich narration was impressive. During the final twist, Vernon's mother appears as a character as he ends the show touchingly, singing her two favorite songs, "What'll I Do" and "Always," both by Irving Berlin.
It is exciting to be enveloped into a world that feels simultaneously idiosyncratic and completely genuine. Vernon creates theater bordering on melodrama, yet projects a vulnerability that remains honest and secure. He is meticulous and then spontaneously, delightfully imperfect. Vernon is his voice--strange, bright and wonderful.
David Vernon and Alex Leonard return to the Metropolitan Room with LOVE: The Concert on December 13 at 9:30 pm.