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BWW Review: Jess LeProtto Shines Bright In Solo Show GOTTA BE ME at The Green Room 42

Whether live or live stream the Broadway ensembler shows Star Quality in his debut solo show.

BWW Review: Jess LeProtto Shines Bright In Solo Show GOTTA BE ME at The Green Room 42

During the year-long shutdown that kept cabarets, clubs, and concert halls closed, we at Broadway World Cabaret covered a great deal of online content, virtual concerts, and Zoom shows. When the clubs re-opened, we took a step back from covering virtual entertainment; when, however, the Omicron variant became a threat to society, club acts began quietly canceling and postponing. Clubs made the painful decision to close their doors for a few weeks. Even Broadway World correspondents were exercising their option to stay out of the cabaret rooms. Any number of performers and performances that had been on the radar of the cabaret page went unobserved.

Since it is part of the mission statement of this cabaret editor to give as much light to as many artists and as much art as possible, I began reaching out to producers to ask if there were show videos that I could watch and write about, and even though it is not the same as reviewing a live concert, it is, as the saying goes, better than nothing. I've certainly, by this point, had plenty of experience reviewing cabaret shows from the privacy of my home office.

In the upcoming days, we will be looking at the work of artists, new or relatively so, to the New York City club and concert scene, and we encourage all who love live music to look for their names on nightclub calendars in the future.

- Stephen Mosher, Editor Broadway World Cabaret

Jess LeProtto: GOTTA BE ME

Presented January 9th, 2022 at The Green Room 42

When it was announced that Jess LeProtto would be playing The Green Room 42 in his debut solo show, this reporter was immediately excited and put the date on the calendar. Then, as happens, life, sadly, kept me away from the oft-employed Broadway dancer's debut in the Midtown Manhattan nightclub. Fortunately for me (and GR42 audience members living out of town or still in a distanced social mode), the venue has made it their policy to live stream most of their shows - it's a major boon to the club, the artists, and the patrons. After some not-too-subtle hinting, I got an offer from the GR42 powers that be to see the show via the live stream link, a brilliant idea because it gave me an opportunity to not only see a personal favorite of mine in performance, it gave me a chance to check out the live stream features coming out of the club.

Well, I am happy to report that both are a resounding success.

With his club act GOTTA BE ME Mr. LeProtto, a veteran of the group cabaret show format, has proven himself completely capable and undeniably ready for this next chapter of his career. He has everything it takes to be a solo artist in cabaret, concert, club, and cruise line venues, using all the parts of his artistic expression, for Jess LeProtto isn't just a world-class dancer, he isn't just a singer of considerable talent, he is a budding songwriter who displayed some of those talents in this very program, one replete with musical offerings from another age.

Using a collection of songs most easily described as vintage, Mr. LeProtto has put himself in that category of young men comfortably drawn to an era of entertainers like Gene Kelly - I choose the legendary song and dance man because that is the image, the name, the aura that continually pervaded my perception of the Jess LeProtto show. The gentleman is so smooth and savvy, so charismatic and classic, so outgoing and outstanding that it is difficult to watch his song and dance show without being drawn to comparisons of the star of Singin' in the Rain. With or without those comparisons, though, Mr. LeProtto has managed to create a musical club act filled with a style that is all his own. Some artists go out on stage and mimic the style of the artists they admire but LeProtto doesn't have to because he has his own thing. He has his own vibe. And it works for him.

Performing everything from Peter Allen ("Everything Old Is New Again") to Donald Fagen (a set of songs from "The Nightfly"), from perfectly recreated Doo-Wop ("Pretty Little Angel Eyes") to impressively invented jazz stylings ("I've Got You Under My Skin"), LeProtto acquits himself nicely with pretty and proficient vocals and expertly executed dance moves - and it is a wise choice to incorporate the dancing into the show for, no matter how great he is at everything else, people will always want to see LeProtto en pointe, as it were. His inclusion of a beloved Carol Channing number from an Oscar-nominated performance provided light and levity, while a stunning Barry Manilow cover stood out as a performance highlight, with Jess taking out a few moments to accompany himself on the piano, another talent which should come as a surprise to no one. From start to finish GOTTA BE ME is an elegant and exciting act, sexy and slinky, fun and funny, featuring several segments of spoken word storytelling about his life, and his life in show business. It is a program for which he should feel pride and one this writer hopes will continue to play around town and in other cities.

As it is early in Mr. LeProtto's solo show career, there are one or two suggestions this writer would like to whisper in his ear, by way of guidance that might have been provided by a director, but no directing credit was given, either on the Green Room 42 website or in the actor's list of thank-yous. I might offer that, thanks to a prolific career in show business, Mr. LeProtto has some pretty hefty colleagues with whom he has created art. It's a fact of his life and no more, but any time one shares career stories that feature names like Alan Menken and Steven Spielberg, it is vastly important to not have their storytelling come across as name-drop-y. It isn't name-dropping when you just happen to be talking about the people who are your bonafide collaborators, and those people just happen to be super famous. The best way to keep the name-drop element out of one's nightclub act is to not joke about it, to never be coy about it, to keep it sincere and genuine. A joke about Mr. Spielberg didn't quite land, and, had the conversation about the West Side Story director been kept genuine throughout, it could have avoided a cringey moment. The jumping-off place for every club act is one made up of authenticity and sincerity - GOTTA BE ME is completely authentic. If Jess LeProtto puts absolute and total sincerity on the front burner for the next go-round, he will seal the deal on a successful career in cabaret and concerts.

The other suggestion I might offer Mr. LeProtto pertains to his band of beautiful, gifted musicians. During the all-important moment in every club act when the star introduces the band, it is essential to say the name of each musician simply, plainly, with perfect diction, wait for the applause to wane, then do the same with the next musician. During this segment of the show, Jess got a little playful with the introductions and one or two of the names were rendered an indistinguishable shout into the air. It was a rookie mistake, easily corrected simply by remembering that the musicians' names deserve to be spoken reverently and heard distinguishably.

My final suggestion, a wish if you will, is that Jess LeProtto will continue writing songs. For, even in a show overflowing with gorgeous terpsichore and breathtaking vocals, the most magnificent moment of his solo concert was his encore, a rich, resonant and resplendent composition of his own creation inspired by a simple photo he made at Disneyland. It was a plain case of saving the best for last, and a weighty calculation to send the audience home on the highest of highs. Hopefully, the fledgling songwriter will get into a recording studio, STAT, so that the song and his impeccable interpretation of it can get out into the world to be enjoyed by as many people as possible - and then it should become his signature closing number for all of his shows, of which there should be many, for the cabaret and concert stages of the world are now his. Jess LeProtto has a new home.

The Gotta Be Me Musical Director is Sonny Paladino.

Find great shows to see live and in person or by sensational live stream at the Green Room 42 website HERE.

Visit the Jess LeProtto Twitter page HERE and Instagram page HERE.

Jess LeProtto gets a five out of five microphones rating for performing his entire show without the use of a lyric sheet, tablet, or music stand.

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From This Author - Stephen Mosher