Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Review: David Sabella Comes Home With a Triumphant PANDEMIC RELIEF at Pangea

pixeltracker

The singing actor is reclaiming his life upon the wicked stage... with a vengeance.

BWW Review: David Sabella Comes Home With a Triumphant PANDEMIC RELIEF at Pangea

The first noticeable thing about walking into the cabaret room at Pangea to see the new David Sabella show was how many people showed up. Even before the pandemic, every artist playing a nightclub had a practically full-time preoccupation with whether or not they would be able to sell tickets to their show - post-pandemic, who knows how many tickets you might sell? Well, whatever his opening night at the club looked like, his closing performance was filled with people who were ready, willing, and anxious to see what PANDEMIC RELIEF was all about... and though the topic of the pandemic did come up, Sabella's show is about anything but the pandemic. This show is about survival, growth, family, love, children, art, and reclamation. Not alleviation, not respite, not mollification... Pandemic Relief is a pleasure, and it's all because of David Sabella... almost.

BWW Review: David Sabella Comes Home With a Triumphant PANDEMIC RELIEF at Pangea Describing his show in a Broadway World interview, Mr. Sabella remarked that the program would have minimal amounts of talking, so that the musical numbers would rise up and tell all the stories for him, and while it is an ambitious and thoughtful artistic goal, it isn't quite accurate to the end result, which is just fine because Sabella is a charming raconteur with a forward-thinking mind about what makes for good storytelling, including a sense of the dramatic and comedic. Indeed, at times Mr. Sabella was rather reminiscent of characters played by Laurence Olivier in The Entertainer and Nathan Lane in The Nance - not, of course, in the tragic sense of those two characters, but in the tradition of the comedy/tragedy masks of show business, and also in his natty mode of dress, harkening back to a bygone era when men put some thought into what they put on their backs before leaving the house. With his generous fourteen-song set, David ran the emotional scales up and down, visiting the drama, the pathos, the joy, the elation, not just that inspired by recent memory, but that informed by a life lived, rather than observed. The not-so-limited chat with the audience shared entertaining stories laced with humor and poignancy about his family life, soul growth, his work as a teacher, and the ups and downs of his work as an actor... it also included the extremely important names of his collaborators on Pandemic Relief. That's where that "almost" at the end of the last paragraph comes in.

BWW Review: David Sabella Comes Home With a Triumphant PANDEMIC RELIEF at Pangea In the creation of his show, Mr. Sabella worked virtually with some of the industry's best musical directors to create fascinating new arrangements that meld two famous melodies into theatrical presentations, little one-acts that either stand on their own or pair perfectly with the personally-infused trajectory of the show. Working closely with artists like Gregory Toroian, Christopher Denny, and the late Rick Jensen, Sabella perfected arrangements that placed vocals from "Losing My Mind" over instrumentals from "It Never Entered My Mind," and other creations that would be nice to mention, but that would spoil the fun for future audiences. When not engaged in the act of artistic restructuring songs for the sake of effective storytelling, Sabella has leaned into his long-time artistic relationship with Musical Director Mark Hartman to create the bulk of the show and, together, they score major wins at every turn with equally sophisticated treatments of Sondheim, Berlin, Connick and others, and not one of the arrangements is unworthy of praise - frankly, neither is Mr. Hartman's work in the show. With the incomparable musicians Mike Lunoe on Drums and Sean Murphy on Bass, the creation of a Mark Hartman trio might be in order, because the three men are spectacular together, and Sabella clearly knows it because on Friday night he was so relaxed into the show that he forgot where he was at one point and just laughed and laughed, thus endearing him to his audience all the more, and at that point they were already pretty besotted.

BWW Review: David Sabella Comes Home With a Triumphant PANDEMIC RELIEF at Pangea David Sabella is a very good storyteller, whether singing or not - the benefit of the singing Sabella is that he has a very palatable voice, pretty and pristine, and one that he knows how to use, and well. Where needed, David is able to sing so quietly as to be whispering, capturing the tender and vulnerable quality that can only be likened to the breathy, breakable Audrey Hepburn's singing in "Breakfast at Tiffany's; conversely, Sabilla is able to bring vocal power that resonates throughout the room without becoming belty, keeping the force close to home so that it doesn't overwhelm the crowd in the intimate setting that is Pangea. With each note precisely placed, and his phrasing (whatever style or tempo represented in the arrangement) meticulously planned, Mr. Sabella's vocal work in this show completely validates his reputation as a voice teacher, especially in the "Losing My Mind" number, and a mind-blowing, heart-aching performance of a composition from "The Bridges of Madison County." David also earns major street creds for his decision to deconstruct, reinvent, and repurpose material with shockingly new looks at some Andrew Lippa and Stephen Sondheim, both numbers created with Mr. Hartman - in a cabaret program replete with exceptional musical monologues, these two are particularly memorable, as is a special virtual appearance by an old friend, one that will tug at the heartstrings of many members of the cabaret community, when they see the just-announced third performance of the show on December 20th. Oh, yes, an additional performance of Pandemic Relief has become necessary, and people who have not seen the show should - it's that good.

BWW Review: David Sabella Comes Home With a Triumphant PANDEMIC RELIEF at Pangea One thing that Mr. Sabella might consider revisiting on his way to the next performance is a more casual conversation with his audience. An actor with skilled training, David can lean into a slightly theatrical presentation that, on occasion, sounds a bit studied - and his script is anything but studied; it's very one-on-one and requiring of a coffee cup and a croissant. Pangea's cabaret room is a living room and, from the stage, you can look at the face of every person watching, which David does (much to his credit). The intimacy of his connection to his guests and the theatricality of his monologuing can, at times, be a bit incongruous - it might benefit the storyteller to think about trying something a little more natural, which would allow him to save all the heightened emotions for the musical numbers, all fourteen of which are perfect and will, hopefully, remain untouched by further examination in the rehearsal room.

Something that will need further examination is whether or not to retitle this show for performances that will occur a year or two after the pandemic is officially over, because Pandemic Relief is a show so satisfying that David Sabella could keep doing it for years to come, something this writer would like, wholeheartedly, to recommend.

David Sabella PANDEMIC RELIEF plays Pangea on December 20th at 7 pm. For information and tickets please visit the Pangea website HERE.

Find great shows at Pangea on their show calendar HERE.

David Sabella will appear at Feinstein's/54 Below on November 17th in 25CHICAGO25. For information and tickets visit the 54 Below website HERE.

David Sabella can be found online at his website HERE.

BWW Review: David Sabella Comes Home With a Triumphant PANDEMIC RELIEF at Pangea

BWW Review: David Sabella Comes Home With a Triumphant PANDEMIC RELIEF at Pangea

BWW Review: David Sabella Comes Home With a Triumphant PANDEMIC RELIEF at Pangea

BWW Review: David Sabella Comes Home With a Triumphant PANDEMIC RELIEF at Pangea

BWW Review: David Sabella Comes Home With a Triumphant PANDEMIC RELIEF at Pangea

BWW Review: David Sabella Comes Home With a Triumphant PANDEMIC RELIEF at Pangea

BWW Review: David Sabella Comes Home With a Triumphant PANDEMIC RELIEF at Pangea

BWW Review: David Sabella Comes Home With a Triumphant PANDEMIC RELIEF at Pangea

Photos by Stephen Mosher


Related Articles View More Cabaret Stories

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes & More

From This Author Stephen Mosher