BWW Reviews: Joe Lupariello Debuts at Sterling's Upstairs at the Federal
On Sunday January 27 singer/TV executive producer Joe Lupariello brought his musical show Where or When to Sterling's Upstairs at the Federal. Lupariello has had a background in musical comedy, but chose a mix of contemporary and traditional pop standards for Where or When, some of which worked better than others. Backed by great versatile Brian Graden at the piano, Lupariello worked like a charm with his SRO crowd, bringing the set in at under 60 minutes.
He has a lovely tenor and is at his best when he opens up fully to expose quite a dynamic vocal range. Unfortunately, many of the songs he chose to perform required a low-key, more quiet delivery, and not having sung them before publicly, there was a rather nervous, unsteady quality that came across. "Give Me the Simple Life" by Harry Ruby and Rube Bloom suited his voice perfectly as did the more contemporary and outrageous "Sensitive Song", but "Lost in the Waves" was not nearly as impressive. There was a fine rendition of Jason Robert Brown's "Moving Too Fast", and of "Angels, Punks and Raging Queens" by Bill Russell and Janet Hood, showing off newfound sensibilities. On a more serious but comic vein he offered "Becoming My Mother" by Brian Lasser, preceded by a delightful patter about getting older and inheriting your parents' best as well as worst qualities. An intriguing mix of Harold Arlen's and Ira Gershwin's "The Man That Got Away" with Burt Bacharach's and Hal David's "A House Is Not a Home" was presented, both of which worked optimally for him in the climactic moments where his voice swelled with dramatic intent. I feel that with a few more gigs under his belt, Lupariello will deliver these two emotionally heavy songs with much more ease and confidence. His opening "New Music" by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty from Ragtime is a gorgeous song, which again took flight for him in the big passionate moments. It's emotionally laden as well and might work better a few numbers in rather than at the top. "Grateful" by John Bucchino gave him a wonderful encore, in which his warmth and sincerity really shined along side his musicianship.
Handsome Lupariello has a sweet, personable quality in his tone and approach and is exceedingly likable on stage. He can command without attitude or force, connecting easily and readily with his audience and has a deep-down passion for the music that is consistently clear. With this in mind, his musical success is limitless. He doesn't need to worry about it. He can be as vocally big as he needs to be and still hold his listeners captive. I hope he continues to work in cabaret. As he tries out new material, he will find what works best for him, and everything should fall into place.