BWW Review: Dancer MARK C. REIS Brings New Cabaret to Sterling's
On Sunday September 27 at Sterling's Upstairs at the Federal, dancer Mark C. Reis debuted his brand new cabaret show I'd Enjoy Being a Girl...on Broadway. Reis had tremendous success in 2012 with his first show at Sterling's called Diapers, Dishes and Dreams...Stories of a Dancer about his gay married life, which has included raising a small child. It is always a big risk, a bold endeavor to return with a new show, particularly if you veer 360 degrees in another direction. Reis has a great fan following. Since his audience for the most part truly love him, even if he falls on his face, as does a child learning how to walk, they will pick him up and encourage him to try again, to move on. The new show has much promise, but does need further work-shopping and retooling.
Let's talk about the content of the show. Reis takes the stage, with terrific musical director Scott Harlan at the piano, performing a wonderful opening number "Willamania" from The Will Rogers Follies. It is full of life and verve, so he surely makes a splashy entrance, followed by his admission, "I Wanna Be a Rockette". Then, things get even splashier as he takes us with him down memory lane to his boyhood in Portland, Oregon - mainly his teen years - when he was experiencing huge changes. He found himself attracted to female stage roles at the same time that he became more sexually attracted to men than to women. Jerry Herman's Mame was an idol, "It's Today!" - he wanted to do her, to play her onstage. But then, when he was with a woman, for companionship or dating, he found the whole process difficult, as she wanted to go all the way with him, but not he with her. In a great "Big Spender" he squeezes in a lot of anecdotes - like his attraction to his 8th grade teacher Mr. Brust, who left the top buttons of his shirt open just enough to expose sexy chest hair. This is a song usually sung by a female and within it, he explores his deep gay feelings about sexuality. It is one of the best moments in the show...funny, touching, revealing, satisfying on more than one level. The trouble with a lot of the first half of the show is that Reis talks and talks instead of using more songs to tell his stories. And there is no need to excuse himself for not being able to sing, which is completely untrue. He is not Domingo or Bocelli, but he has a decent voice and can certainly carry a tune. He just needs to pick more comedic songs that match his charm and energetic style. What about "Adelaide's Lament" or a solo "Class" from Chicago? I think they would work nicely for him.
It is in the second half of the show that everything comes together and literally soars with a finale that is completely refreshing. He picked his top five dream roles: Mama Rose from Gypsy, Mrs. Lovett from Sweeney Todd, Roxy Hart from Chicago - he worked in Fosse with Gwen Verdon and they became good friends - Sheila from A Chorus Line and Dolly Levi. He added Eponine from Les Mis to the list by singing "On My Own" in a bedraggled, frumpy costume. Then he donned a Peter Pan look and performed "Never Neverland" usually sung by a female and finally "Rose's Turn" from Gypsy in a delicious costume, hand-made with the top rolling down to make it appear as though he were wearing a full-length red sequined gown. The best! For his finale, in black bra and tights, he essayed "Cell Block Tango" with five female dancers surrounding him, proving indeed once and for all that he can enjoy being a girl...on Broadway!
Mark C. Reis is talented and has a potentially good show here. He simply needs to take out fifteen minutes of patter and put in more comedic songs. The show came to life in the last segments, and I would love to see it again if and when he reworks it