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BWW Review: Piano Man Jason Ostrowski Rocks Out In His Musical Memoir SING US A SONG

Singing actor and piano proficient Jason Ostrowski presents a sweet concert about his life the keys.

BWW Review: Piano Man Jason Ostrowski Rocks Out In His Musical Memoir SING US A SONG 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

Jason Ostrowski: SING US A SONG

Presented December 18, 2021 at Urban Stages

The title of Jason Ostrowski's one-man club act is taken directly from a lyric written by his piano-playing idol, Billy Joel, and it is a title most apropos because SING US A SONG is precisely what he does in the show designed to map out the story of his life as a piano-playing entertainer. Ostrowski - a most engaging man and appealing storyteller - doesn't simply allow himself to be stuck behind the keyboard, singing and playing for the hour-plus that he spends on stage: he has come to tell his story. Not everyone has a story that is interesting enough to tell as a piece of narrative entertainment; in fact, most people do not have a life story ideally suited to the framework of a cabaret show. Even Jason Ostrowski's story is little more than the story of a working actor and musician who has had some successes during his tenure in show business. Whether, though, a person's story is interesting enough to turn into a play, a movie, or a nightclub act, the truth is that every person deserves a chance to tell their story and have it heard, and in the case of Jason Ostrowski, all of the pieces fit together to make Sing Us a Song into a viable cabaret musical.

Since the tale being recounted by the redheaded piano man centers, directly, around his work, Mr. Ostrowski has a perfect opportunity to create a running monologue that is infused by the music that has informed his career - mostly music of a pop and rock nature, which broadens the scope of the audience that is available to him. Broadway show tunes and The Great American Songbook are genres of music not always apt to put butts in seats but an artist performing the hits of The Beatles, Elton John, The Monkees, Neil Diamond, and (yes) Billy Joel has a greater chance at filling a venue. With Jason Ostrowski playing that music, the chances immediately double because the gentleman is a supremely gifted musician and vocalist. When he opens his show with "Old Time Rock and Roll" it is instantly apparent that Ostrowski knows his way around the keyboard - there are plenty of piano players who can plunk out a tune and sing along, but as the minutes tick by on this opening number, one might find themself thinking, "Holy Jerry Lee Lewis, Batman!" Well, not surprisingly, that opening Bob Seger tune segues into Little Richard's "Good Golly Miss Molly" and, then, into (you guessed it) "Great Balls Of Fire," and by the time Jason has finished this opening medley, one might just be checking their program to see if he has ever played in the musical Million Dollar Quartet. He's that good.

And, thus, begins Sing Us a Song.

Listening to Mr. Ostrowski break down his youthful relationship with the piano, with lessons, with familial demands on his talent, hearing his adult reminiscences about auditions, tours, working with the greats, meeting the greats never becomes cringey or boring because Jason tells the tales with bushels full of heart and a direct demeanor that endears him to the audience. He is a natural storyteller who may or may not have sat down and scripted his show patter... every minute feels off-the-cuff and in the moment, making the man and the show pleasurable throughout. Even though the music is exceptional, one never wishes that he would stop talking and get to the next number, such is the power of his charm. But, oh, when he does get to the next number, there is a strong sense of satisfaction, particularly on impressive numbers from Sir Elton ("I'm Still Standing") and Mr. Joel ("New York State of Mind"), not to mention a surprisingly enjoyable rock and roll spin on a Disney classic from The Jungle Book. Ostrowski knows his strengths and plays right into them in the rock-heavy program but he does show some versatility with one tune from the Broadway stage that allows him to display some acting chops while bringing those powerful rock vocals to some Sondheim, and though it is fun to imagine him standing center stage and belting out "Being Alive" in character, the thrill of hearing Jason Ostrowski perform "That's Life" and the evening's highlight "Rocket Man" is one that should not be missed, particularly because of the work his fingers do on the keys on the latter.

During a recent viewing of Sing Us a Song, two constructive thoughts occurred to this writer who would like to offer that Mr. Ostrowski should begin to pepper his program with more of his original compositions because the one tune he played that was written as a collaboration between himself and his girlfriend was quite good. As groovy as it is to hear the radio hits we all know and love, the personal compositions that are brought to any show created by an instrument-wielding singer will always draw an audience closer than will the covers. The second suggestion this reporter would like to offer is that a tendency toward encouraging the audience to sing along must be curbed, for it takes the onus off of the artist on the stage and turns a nightclub act into a piano bar. It might feel like a fun way to make a connection with the audience, but that is a connection that must be saved for near the end of a show, maybe the encore, and certainly not one employed more than once during a performance. There are few enough times in life when something is all about you - a person's club act is one of those times. It is an opportunity to share oneself and one's story with a group of like-minded people interested in hearing that story, and Jason Ostrowski's story and show are both worth seeing and hearing. Let the audience watch, listen, and learn, for as long as they can. Then, when the story is complete, invite them to sing along, in one last moment of human connection, before sending them, satisfied, out into the world to reflect on the tale told and the joy to be found therein.

Visit the Jason Ostrowski website HERE.

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