BWW Review: Actor/Singer Robert Yacko Delivers the Goods in Solo Cabaret Debut OPENING DOORS
Known for his rich baritone voice on LA stages for the past several years, Robert Yacko made his solo concert debut entitled Opening Doors at Sterling's Upstairs at the Federal Sunday October 29. In spite of the Dodger game, he attracted a good sized audience who hung on very note and lyric. Skillfully directed by Bruce Kimmel, who is no stranger to Yacko, as he has appeared in many Kritzerland shows, the concert/cabaret explored the highlights of Yacko's life and career from South Philly to New York and on to LA.
As Yacko explained, it is one thing to sing a song in a Kritzerland show with other performers around you, but it is a much more difficult task to put together and perform an entire one person gig. You are alone out there, sink or swim. Even though he has appeared in many, many top musicals, and has accumulated a large repertoire of songs, Yacko relied heavily on Kimmel to set the tone for the show and to help him keep on a steady course. His opening "Comes Once In a Lifetime" and his closing coming full circle "With So Little To Be Sure Of" nicely paid tribute to the theatre audience who provide a reason for coming together. They relate to and share his cherished memories through music, making the whole experience worthwhile.
Other highlishts of the approximately 75 minute show included: "The Way You Look Tonight" with a delightfully charming anecdote about working early on in summer stock with Cyd Charisse. According to Yacko, she was warm and wonderful to work with teaching him all the steps for their number. She rehearsed jumping up on a table, then tossing her Mink Stole out to the crowd and finally jumping into Yacko's arms. Showtime, when the lights came down very low and it was time to begin, she whispered in his ear, "I can't see very well, so make sure I'm close to the table." Needless to say, her words scared an already very nervous young man to death, but...it all worked beautifully and Charisse executed every move exactly as rehearsed. She was indeed the perfectly unforgettable partner for a young performer starting out.
Another lovely moment came as Yacko talked about his Irish roots and the comaraderie with his mother, "Mother Machree" in tandem with "You and Me Against the World". His mother taught him many, many songs and stimulated him to fearlessly pursue a musical career from an early age.
Yacko paid tribute to Bruce Kimmel who has always given Yacko a wacky parody to essay in Kritzerland performances. One he performed was from Kimmel's revue What If? The song suggests what if Stephen Sondheim wrote for the Yiddish theatre. His "Marry Me a Little" turns into the hysterical "Bury Me a Little" where this Irishman Yacko pretends to be a Jew singing about dying and being buried next to his long suffering wife. Another fun segment came with "The Three Marias" that included "Maria" from West Side Story, "They Call the Wind Maria" from Paint Your Wagon and finally "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" from The Sound of Music. Superb musical director Alby Potts contributed from the piano verbally reminding Yacko that there is a difference in the pronunciation of the first Maria and the second Mariah. It provided some fun, fun moments.
Yacko admitted to being a Sondheim freak and sang several songs which he has had the honor of performing like "Finishing the Hat", "Someone Is Waiting" and my favorite "Beling Alive" as Bobby in Company. I believe this to be one of the greatest, most electric songs an actor can sing onstage. Of course, Yacko did it justice to rousing applause.
In time Yacko will perhaps move around more, maybe into the audience and interact more with them, but Opening Doors as is is certainly a wonderfully riveting presentation of songs and stories of this terrific singer's life. His powherhouse voice pulls you in, keeps you listening attentively and never lets go. Don't miss Robert Yacko when he performs this or any other show.
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Just a couple of words of praise for the food and service at Sterling's Upstairs at the Federal. The service has always been and continues to be warm and friendly. The food selections have gotten better and better. Not only can you order a great burger and famous garlic fries, but there are now other dinner choices like grilled salmon, pasta pesto with shrimp and a delectable prime rib dinner. For dessert there is homemade salted caramel ice cream, cake and other selections. Congratulations on the wonderful improvements!