By: May. 02, 2019
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Michael Musto once quipped (I'll paraphrase) that he'd rather down a cocktail of e-coli bacteria than to have to sit through a cabaret. A harsh sentiment, but one that I've more or less subscribed to over the years. As far as live performing mediums go, few match cabaret in self-importance and angst. I have enough problems of my own and never felt it necessary to listen to other people put theirs to song.

So, when invitations went out that a noted retired celebrity photographer was trying his hand at being an intimate chanteur, my eyes naturally rolled in the back of my head. Somehow, curiosity took hold. Later, after obtaining the requisite team of wild horses, I arrived at midtown cabaret mainstay Don't Tell Mama to see Stephen Mosher's evening of song titled The Story Teller, fully ready to do my best to politely applaud and maintain a poker face.

Much to my very pleasant surprise, Mr. Mosher delivered one of the most entertaining and delightful evenings that I've had the pleasure of seeing in that space since the days of Nancy LaMott.

Armed with an arsenal of old Hollywood anecdotes he learned as boy at his grandmother's knee (she was assistant to famed silver screen costumer Edith Head and later companion to Mae West), Mr. Mosher spins one Golden Age yarn after another with frenzied ease - all interwoven into songs.

The songs themselves are a curious Sondheim-free mixed bag of classic showtunes and movie songs that include "Zip" from Pal Joey, "Everybody's Talkin'" from Midnight Cowboy, and "My Strongest Suit" from Aida. A raucous rendition "Can-Can" gives Mr. Mosher (himself a quarter Asian), opportunity to poke fun at Cole Porter now un-pc lyric "if a jap with a slap of her fan can, maybe you can Can-Can too."

Director Brady Schwind keeps the evening moving at a quick clip. And, true to the show's title, he focuses on Mr. Mosher's skill at storytelling, background as a celebrity photographer, and obsession with all things showbiz. Names are dropped with reckless abandon. The show's wild card came by way of Mr. Mosher's published book of celebrity photographs, and an impromptu springboard into story about his hurried photo shoot with Bea Arthur.

Musically, the evening is realized by a team of seasoned musical theater pros Ricky Pope (piano/musical director), Don Kelly on percussion, and guitarist Dan Tracy, who duets with Mr. Mosher on his own composition "Smile."

As a singer, Mr. Mosher's voice is admittedly of limited range. And while his baritone is pleasing, he probably won't be seeing a record contract in his future. But (to borrow from Sondheim), "Everybody says don't" to crazy ideas like a photographer turning to cabaret in his mid-50's, so, who knows? At the very least, Mr. Mosher promised stories. And he delivers masterfully.

Stephen Mosher's The Story Teller runs at Don't Tell Mama (314 West 46thStreet) on Tuesday, May 7 at 7:00 p.m.. $15 cover, two drink minimum.


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