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BWW Review: Nothing But Love for Migguel Anggelo in SO CLOSE at Joe's Pub

BWW Review: Nothing But Love for Migguel Anggelo in SO CLOSE at Joe's Pub
Migguel Anggelo (with Jessie Reagen Mann) performs in his newest show, SO CLOSE: LOVE & HATE at Joe's Pub. Photos: Ryan Muir

It's often been pointed out that love and hate aren't exactly polar opposites, considering each feeling originates from a place of passion. And now more than ever, we've come to a point where, everyday, living can feel like an extreme sport and everything seems to be superlative, for best or worst.

In Migguel Anggelo's latest show, SO CLOSE: LOVE & HATE, at Joe's Pub on May 23, he distilled this moment in time and made something beautiful out of our less-than-certain reality.

Following the band's overture, "The Muppet Show Theme" (Sam Pottle/Jim Henson), Anggelo made his debut onstage in an enormous Kermit the Frog suit to sing Barbra Streisand's "Evergreen." Mugging for the audience and doing a penguin shuffle around the stage, the performance of the iconic love song was as clever as it was lovely.

"Get it?" he asked, revealing he'd dreamt up the look, as he took an exaggerated bow and ducked behind the piano. After removing the Kermit suit, he returned barefoot in little more than a nude camisole and matching bike shorts. That may seem like an unlikely selection to wear for the majority of a cabaret performance (or maybe not, depending on the show). Yet his voice was just one color on the palate he was painting from, and removing his plumage after one number was emblematic of that.

More than that, though, it was the level of unity between the players onstage that truly helped deepen the themes of SO CLOSE. Mau Quiros, responsible for music direction and arrangements, also played piano, percussion and the loop. They were joined by Hery Paz on reeds (saxophone, flute, and both the clarinet and bass clarinet), while Jessie Reagen Mann assisted on cello.

BWW Review: Nothing But Love for Migguel Anggelo in SO CLOSE at Joe's Pub
Anggelo in SO CLOSE: LOVE & HATE.

That harmony struck me just a few songs in, as Anggelo silently performed an interpretive dance during one section of "The Wind" (Anggelo/Quiros). And it crystallized in my mind when, vibrating with emotion, his neck muscles pulsed as he sang "I Hate This Song," an exhilarating number that wondered aloud when love would defeat hate.

Yet as far as he could push himself, the performer never let his message get ahead of his music. He displayed the same level of intensity singing about that state of the world as he did unraveling a lovelorn cello's unrequited feelings for a harp in one of his own songs, "El Amor del Cello," or covering Björk's typically eerie "All is Full of Love," translated into Spanish by Anggelo and Quiros.

Over the course of the evening, he professed his love of love songs again and again. And certainly not just American songs, either. In a lighthearted bit, he sang snippets of breakup songs in Spanish from various Latin American countries, with Quiros loosely translating them for the audience. (Emphasis on loosely, unless all of them actually translate to, "Fuck off.")

But, as Anggelo said, some songs don't need translation, and he went on to give a perfectly arranged

performance of "Besame Mucho" (Consuelo Velazquez), with little else but his voice and the piano until the chorus arrived.

The show was most evocative when exploring the intersection of his titular themes. Invoking magical realism, he shared a dream of a woman coming out of a mist to demand he open his heart and let her in. He began singing "Mon Coeur S'ouvre a ta Voix" (Camille Saint-Saëns), an aria from the opera SAMSON AND DELILAH, while wearing a white skirt with a bodice covered in tufts of blonde hair--- fitting, given the source material.

Leaning against a pole at the side of the stage, the emotions were dialed up as high as his operatic voice, his face contorting with pain and ecstasy without ever losing the humor of his performance. As he stalked around the stage, using his mic as his knife in service of his story, I truly lost all sense of myself and watched, slack-jawed until it was over.

That intensity didn't immediately fade away. He and the band began chanting words like "misogyny," "xenophobia," "homophobia" and "lies." Eventually, he declared, "We are not fake," delivering an ethereal, almost Lynchian performance of another original song, "What Comes Next" (Anggelo/Quiros).

BWW Review: Nothing But Love for Migguel Anggelo in SO CLOSE at Joe's Pub
Anggelo (with Mau Quiros) in one of several
costumes throughout the show.

For the encore, Anggelo took it back to the very beginning---a very good place to start---lightening up the mood with "Do Re Mi" (Rodgers/Hammerstein) from THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Slightly disconnected from the rest of the show but a welcome chance to exhale, he returned to the stage in Julie Andrews drag---complete with blonde wig---and he implored the audience to join in.

Throughout the night, there was a playfulness to his literalism, from his it's-not-easy-being-"Evergreen" moment, to, at one point, covering his eyes with the brim of a hat as he sang the phrase "Open your eyes." But in the show's closing moments, after another quick-change, all that was left was sincerity.

Asking the crowd to blow out the candles on their tables, he turned to a song called "Love Is Blind."

Under a single spotlight, Anggelo sang that if his song's title were really true, he'd keep his eyes closed all the time. More about clarity of purpose than about burying your head in the sand, it was a final, unifying thread for a show that couldn't have been more thematically watertight. And, above all else, Anggelo should certainly be proud of creating something universal that also happens to feel so singularly now.


Troy Frisby is an entertainment writer and digital news producer based in New York. Follow him on Twitter @TroyFrisby.

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