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BWW Review: Gerrilyn Sohn Brightens Up Don't Tell Mama with SOMETHING COOL

BWW Review: Gerrilyn Sohn Brightens Up Don't Tell Mama with SOMETHING COOL

To make your cabaret debut is a beautiful thing. It is wonderful, exciting, and joyful. It is also horrible, terrifying, and exhausting. But what's easy, except complaining? Many is the celebrity, many is the award winning actor who has told me they wouldn't dream of putting together an act - it is too personal, too naked, being out there without a character behind which to hide. Any person deciding to set foot on a stage in a nightclub deserves respect for going out on that limb, for chasing that dream. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn't.

For freshman Gerrilyn Sohn, this is definitely going to work out.

Ms. Sohn debuted "Something Cool" during the summer to such praise that an encore was planned for this month, clearly a requirement, since The Brick Room at Don't Tell Mama was some six seats shy of being sold out, not a bad feeling for a Freshman in the cabaret community. Where some singers are struggling to get ten people at their show, Gerrilyn Sohn is playing to near-capacity rooms. Git it, girl.

While the title "Something Cool" refers to one of the songs in the show, Sohn makes sure that her viewers know that the entire evening's entertainment is about cool stuff from her life, like the way her parents always nurtured her love of musical theater, the time she toured Europe in Hair as a cover, where cast illness caused her to go on as Chrissy during her very first week, and how she met her idol, Bernadette Peters. Something Cool is this writer's favorite kind of show. From start to finish Gerrilyn Sohn shares her life with the audience, seamlessly weaving the stories into the framework of the songs, speaking perfectly timed-out dialogue during the 60 seconds of musical break before the next verse comes in, or sharing mere snippets of a tune before making the segue into the text acting as a bridge to the next song. Sohn and her director, Gretchen Reinhagen, have worked tirelessly to see to it that the structure and flow of the piece is gentle and enjoyable, never choppy or transitionally clumsy, and their hard work pays off.

It is very easy to like Gerrilyn Sohn and to want her to succeed. She brings an air to the stage best described as "real" -- it is visibly not in her nature to be false, and what you see is what you get. With Hollywood good looks, the fashion forward soprano stands in the light, looking like Linda Darnell raided Sharon Tate's closet, in a chic white beaded cocktail frock with sleeves like angel wings, appropriate because the classically trained voice sounds like it came from a heavenly choir. Ms. Sohn brings her acting skills into the room early in the proceedings by tackling her title song "Something Cool" in a performance that makes one wonder if she shouldn't, at some point, actually play Blanche DuBois. That achievement out of the way, Sohn is able to focus on more amusing anecdotes by creating for all the visual of a 7 year old singing "Porgy, I's Your Woman Now," cementing the concept that this rookie has made the right choice in her artistic pursuits. With an interesting selection of material that may be a little ballad heavy, Sohn makes it clear that Bernadette Peters has been a major influence in her life by performing four tunes from Ms. Peters' cannon - something that might intimidate other artists. The gutsy move works for her, not against her, especially during the rarely-sung Peter Allen torch song "Only Wounded" and a surprisingly moving "Send in the Clowns" -- one wonders how an actress of such youth taps into the depth of emotions present in the Sondheim classic, emotions many other performers seem not quite so apt to find. Equally riveting was Sohn's performance of the Bacharach/David classic "Anyone Who Had a Heart," a performance so in the emotional pocket that one ponders if it is just great acting, or has a real-life event informed the performance. It was also a performance that showcased some surprising and luscious alto low notes that this writer would love to hear more of. This is the kind of theater possible from a four minute song in a nightclub, and it's why audiences go to cabarets: to have their hearts touched by an intimate connection and theatrical storytelling.

It is apparent that Ms. Sohn is off to a good start with "Something Cool," and with the likes of Reinhagen and musical director David Gaines guiding her, the trajectory of her cabaret career can only grow. During her performance on November 3rd, the most obvious performance issue was one that has followed people onto stages for years after their debut, and it is an issue that can only be cleared away when the artist in question is ready to do so: nerves. Ms. Sohn is a charming woman and a lovely performer, but there were times when the nerves showed; and it's only natural that a performer be nervous - nerves are the respect they pay their audience. Nerves, though, can distract the singer from the fun, and if the singer is having fun, the crowd will have fun, so it's important for every performer to shake off the nerves and have fun. One of the ways to do that is to remember, always, that the audience is not out to get you. The people out there in the dark picked you, they paid for you, they want to like you, to love you, to support you. Stand on the stage and look them in the eye while you tell your stories. Gerrilyn Sohn is a really good story teller. She has interesting stories to tell (not everyone does), and she's funny when she tells them, with comic timing and facial expressions that carry the story forward - but the stories would have been ever so much more effective, had she looked at the people, instead of out at the lights and the back wall. There are plenty of reasons and occasions to look into the lights and the darkness, but the eye to eye action is where the magic happens. Had Gerrilyn looked at the faces in the darkness of The Brick Room last night (and it really isn't all that dark), she would have seen Bobbie Horowitz three seats back, bobbing her head in time with the melody, agreeing with the music and approving the stories. Anyone on a New York stage who is feeling nervous should look into the audience to see if Bobbie Horowitz is there because she is your Cabaret Auntie, the one who is always kind and always supportive, and when you see her in the crowd, you can relax because you have a calming and loving face to sing to, and that love will come up out of the not-so-darkness to calm your nerves and give you strength. If Bobbie Horowitz isn't in the audience at your show, look for the face that is smiling the biggest smile, the person who is leaning in to get the best look at you while you are working, and sing to them. Make the connection, it'll make it personal and it'll make it fun, for the crowd and for you.

During the perfectly timed-out Something Cool (56 minutes, thank you!), Gerrilyn Sohn remarked that she had finally made her cabaret debut; and while the "finally" is important, what is most important is that she did make her debut, because Gerrilyn Sohn is a welcome addition to the community, and those who have seen her work during her freshman year can certainly be excited to see what her sophomore show is going to be. One thing is certainly true, though, Gerrilyn Sohn is like a morning breeze off the water, refreshing, bright and filling the room with something cool.

And that something cool is all her.

Something Cool has completed its run of shows but if there are more to come Broadwayworld will bring you the news.

Follow Gerrilyn Sohn's Youtube Channel HERE

BWW Review: Gerrilyn Sohn Brightens Up Don't Tell Mama with SOMETHING COOLBWW Review: Gerrilyn Sohn Brightens Up Don't Tell Mama with SOMETHING COOLBWW Review: Gerrilyn Sohn Brightens Up Don't Tell Mama with SOMETHING COOLBWW Review: Gerrilyn Sohn Brightens Up Don't Tell Mama with SOMETHING COOLBWW Review: Gerrilyn Sohn Brightens Up Don't Tell Mama with SOMETHING COOLPhotos by Stephen Mosher

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