BWW Review: Singer Robert Collins Performs a Knockout Debut Cabaret
Singer Robert Collins, winner of LA's Next Great Stage Star 2018 Presented by Princess Cruises, has a powerhouse voice, so to say that he knocked his debut LA cabaret show out of the park goes without saying. Playing to a soldout audience of family and friends, many from the contest, Collins displayed a down.to.earth, friendly charm that makes him perfect for cabaret. You have to connect with your audience, and Collins did so in spades. Backing him in the 70-minute show was marvelous pianist/musical director Michael Ragonese.
Collins is humble to a fault, acknowledging his fellow participants in LA's Next Great Stage Star and having three of them duet with him onstage. The competition boasts a community spirit in which all contestants come together and leave as friends. Collins is living proof. He is also a theatre aficionado and actor having essayed Coalhouse Walker in Ragtime, citing his mentor Brian Stokes Mitchell, who won a Tony for playing the role. For this debut concert Collins chose for the most part Broadway favorites, a delight for oldsters like myself and an education in great music for all the younger members of the audience..
He was also careful to choose songs that show off his vocal skill and stamina like Anthony Newley's "Gonna Build a Mountain" in tandem with "Once in a Lifetime". "Be the Hero" from Big Fish is yet another example of a song that shows the world his capability of not only singing well but also acting dynamically.
Other highlights included his rousing opener "Feeling Good", "Being Alive" from Sondheim's Company, "Go the Distance", "The Impossible Dream", and "Wheels of a Dream" from Ragtime, all big numbers that showed off his talent to perfection. Then there was a lovely "Moon River" in honor of the lady of his dreams. Another tribute to her "Make You Feel My Love" he couldn't finish, as he was so overcome with emotion. This also shows his great acting skill, but in the moment, it was totally genuine behavior.
Duets included: with Stage Star Kit Meyering (also 2018) in a smashing rendition of Sweeney Todd's "Pretty Women", Into the Woods' "Agony" another winner with Daniel Bellusci (2017) and finally "Dear Theodosia" from Hamilton with Christopher J. Thume (2019). I am a Sondheim freak, so hearing the first two duets really made me feel a batch of emotions from ecstasy to...well, agony. The performances were over.the.moon terrific.
It's amazing to find out that Collins at a younger age was a bodyguard but was too shy to talk. Thank goodness he finally found his voice! He also overcame a dangerous injury involving his spleen, which almost prevented him from entering the contest. Again thank God he was able to do it, win and audition for cast replacements in Hamilton.
Collins praised the diversity of theatre and how it allows performers of every race, color and creed to come together and share the joy of performing. It is wonderful to witness humility in a performer. Yes, he may be ambitious, but his humanity is heartfelt. Robert Collins is destined for a big break very soon...maybe in Hamilton. Keep an eye out for him!