Review: Tony Award Winner Matt Doyle Makes Segerstrom Center Cabaret Debut

Filled with beautifully-rendered songs and charmingly-told personal stories, Matt Doyle's endearing OC Cabaret Debut was a fun triumph.

By: May. 20, 2024
Review: Tony Award Winner Matt Doyle Makes Segerstrom Center Cabaret Debut
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Broadway's Matt Doyle—the 2022 Tony Award winner for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his gender-bent role of Jaime in the most recent Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim's COMPANY—made his Segerstrom Center for the Arts Cabaret Series debut over a three-night engagement that began on May 2, 2024 with an incredible (but, sadly, way too-short) set that showcased not only his amazing vocal talents but also his charming, witty ability for personal, very candid storytelling. 

Mixing showtunes with some popular classics—and a few funny anecdotes and juicy behind-the-scenes stories—the actor wowed the opening night crowd with songs that he professed have been "attached” to him at various points in his life, with each marking a significant moment in his already successful career. For these series of shows, Doyle was joined on stage by his very talented musician friend, pianist Patrick Sulken, who just got into town from New York just hours before the show started.

A multifaceted actor that has consistently demonstrated a prowess in acting, singing, and dancing, Doyle already exhibited a passion for musical theater performance from a young age. Thanks to some encouraging parents, he was exposed to the arts early on, sparking a lifelong love affair with the stage.

Doyle's professional career began to take shape in his teenage years when he made his Broadway debut in the acclaimed musical SPRING AWAKENING in 2008. Though initially cast in the ensemble, his talent and charisma quickly caught the attention of audiences and critics alike. His performance as Hanschen earned him praise for his nuanced portrayal of the character's complexity, and, later, he would go on to perform the lead role of Melchior in the show's first national tour.

Following his success in SPRING AWAKENING, Doyle continued to make waves in the theater world with notable roles in the Broadway companies of BYE BYE BIRDIE, WAR HORSE and THE BOOK OF MORMON. Other credits include the world premiere production of THE HEART OF ROCK AND ROLL at The Old Globe Theater in San Diego, plus productions of SWEENEY TODD, WEST SIDE STORY, BROOKLYNITE, GIANT, and JASPER IN DEADLAND. Most recently, he completed his limited special run as Seymour in the critically-acclaimed off-Broadway revival of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS before whisking off to the UK to star as the title role in the world premiere musical about the legendary singer Frank Sinatra. His ability to inhabit diverse characters and convey emotion and humor on stage solidified his reputation as a rising star in the Broadway community and stages everywhere.

Review: Tony Award Winner Matt Doyle Makes Segerstrom Center Cabaret Debut

In addition to his work on the stage, Doyle has also made a name for himself in film and television. Along with the lead role in the indie film Private Romeo, he has appeared in several television series, including the original CW run of Gossip Girl, plus appearances on The Code and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which all showcased his versatility as an actor across different mediums.

However, it is perhaps Doyle's musical talents that truly set him apart. A gifted singer and songwriter, he has released eponymous solo albums, including Daylight and Uncontrolled. His music reflects his eclectic taste and showcases his ability to blend elements of pop, rock, and folk into a unique and captivating sound.

Beyond his professional achievements, Doyle is also known for his advocacy work within the LGBTQ+ community. As an openly gay man himself—a fact that may have been a surprise for this conservative-leaning OC audience, given that such casual mentions of past boyfriends and his current husband are rare utterances at these mostly older-attended cabarets—Doyle has been a vocal supporter of LGBTQ+ rights and has used his platform—particularly his endearingly tearful Tony Awards acceptance speech—to raise awareness about important issues facing the community.

For his OC Cabaret debut, Doyle easily won over the mixed-demographic audience with his incredible singing and his candid, adorable overshares—which he organized as a sort of chronological journey of his career thus far.

He kicked off his set with a powerful rendition of "Being Alive” (from COMPANY, the very show that earned him his Tony Award), followed by a heartfelt Beatles cover of "Let It Be,” which, he admitted, has become one of his go-to songs for Broadway auditions, and a song he has known for a long time, thanks to his early immersion in his parents' music tastes while growing up in Northern California. It was this song, it turned out, that helped nab him (as a 19-year-old) his first big role.

Review: Tony Award Winner Matt Doyle Makes Segerstrom Center Cabaret Debut
Patrick Sulken (behind piano) and Matt Doyle.
Photo by Michael L. Quintos

Next, Doyle sang a lovely cover of Jamie Cullum's "Lover, You Should Come Over” which he claimed he still uses as a frequent warm-up song backstage, much to the apparent annoyance of fellow actors that have to share a wall with him. And in a funny oops moment, Doyle admitted to fudging up the sequence of this show a bit because he apparently skipped right over to the Cullum cover, bypassing two early-era songs he meant to sing first, completely throwing off his planned chronological song order.

Those two songs were "Out There,” a song from the Disney animated musical version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame that he sang beautifully, and "The Streets of Dublin,” a stirring tune from the obscure musical A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE. "Out There,” of course, was a song inspired by Doyle's love of Disney musicals and his close working relationship with the voice actor that played the title role of Quasimodo in that film, Tom Hulce, one of the main producers of SPRING AWAKENING whom Doyle has idolized since seeing him in the Oscar-winning Amadeus and adorably fan-boyed over during his run.

Doyle then sang a touching cover of Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love,” another tune he learned from his parents' record collection, and was a song his Dad actually told him was "the best love song ever written.” His mom, though, was more influential in Doyle's eventual affection for musical theater, going even further by convincing her young son to start doing community theater productions. This bit of personal divulgence segued to his rousing rendition of "I Got Life” from the rock musical HAIR.

Next, Doyle superbly covered "Saint Honesty,” a touching Bluegrass-tinged song from Grammy winner Sara Bareilles, another fellow Broadway fave—whom he also fangirled over when she was performing nearby in another Sondheim revival INTO THE WOODS.  

Fun fact that I never knew before until Doyle spoke about it: as an undergrad at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Doyle's RA (Resident Advisor) was none other than future Broadway composer Adam Guettel (who wrote THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA) who took Doyle under his wing and introduced him to some great musical theater songs. This led to Doyle's stunningly dramatic cover of "How Glory Goes” a song Guettel penned for the musical FLOYD COLLINS.

To finish off his concert set, Doyle brought the audience forward to a career highlight he just recently completed: portraying the legendary Frank Sinatra in a biographical jukebox musical that had its triumphant, critically-acclaimed world premiere in the UK, and was produced by Frank's own daughter, pop icon Nancy Sinatra. There seems to be lots of chatter surrounding a possible Broadway transfer in the very near future, which, of course, Doyle is hoping would become reality.

"By the way… I am half-Italian,” Doyle cheekily insisted, should there be any doubters in the audience that are curious about his casting while having that last name. 

He concluded his setlist with a Sinatra double-header: "One For My Baby” followed by a rousing "That's Life” that earned Doyle a standing ovation.

But, well, so as not to disappoint those of us who are thirsty for his Tony-winning role on COMPANY, Doyle offered one last song as an encore, which had the audience in a frenzy: "(Not) Getting Married Today,” the rapid-fire song he sang with anxious panic in Sondheim's COMPANY. Wow, it was really such a treat to hear him do this song live and in person, and it was definitely worth the wait ending with it. That was fabulous, and frankly, I enjoyed myself so much that I wished the concert was just a tad longer with, perhaps, 2-4 more songs, especially with the kind of candor Doyle allowed in between.

Review: Tony Award Winner Matt Doyle Makes Segerstrom Center Cabaret Debut
BWW's Michael Lawrence Quintos and Matt Doyle

With his talent, passion, and commitment to his craft, the effortlessly talented Matt Doyle continues to captivate audiences on stage and screen alike—and, as this OC audience experienced during this glorious weekend, on a cabaret space. Whether belting out show tunes on Broadway or captivating viewers with his on-screen performances, he remains a force to be reckoned with in the world of entertainment. Here's hoping for a Broadway-bound Sinatra musical encore in his future, and, of course, a return engagement here in So. California.

Headshots courtesy of Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

* Follow this reviewer on Instagram / Twitter-X / Threads: @cre8iveMLQ *

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Tickets to upcoming Cabaret Series performances at Segerstrom Center for the Arts can be purchased online at www.SCFTA.org, by phone at 714-556-2787 or in person at the SCFTA box office (open daily at 10 am). Segerstrom Center for the Arts is located at 600 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa.

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