Review: MAX VON ESSEN: CALL ME OLD FASHIONED: THE BROADWAY STANDARDS at Venetian Room

What did our critic think of MAX VON ESSEN: CALL ME OLD FASHIONED: THE BROADWAY STANDARDS at Venetian Room?

By: Feb. 05, 2024
Review: MAX VON ESSEN: CALL ME OLD FASHIONED: THE BROADWAY STANDARDS at Venetian Room

Almost four years after his COVID delayed Bay Area Cabaret appearance, Broadway star Max von Essen made it to the historic Venetian Room with selections from his 2019 CD of Broadway interpretations on which he was joined by Grammy winning composer and famed musical director, Billy Stritch who backs Essen for this show as well.

Von Essen, currently playing Billy Flynn in Chicago, clearly has a joy and affinity for the Golden Age of American music. Both he and Stritch were introduced to this music through a Gershwin songbook and they share duets on a medley of Gershwin tunes including: “I’ve Got Beginner’s Luck”, “I’ve Got Rhythm”, "'S’ Wonderful", and "They Can't Take That Away from Me.  Max has a clear, powerful high tenor, perfectly suited for Broadway material.

Review: MAX VON ESSEN: CALL ME OLD FASHIONED: THE BROADWAY STANDARDS at Venetian Room

A few ballads show off his softer side: a gender swapped “Man That Got Away,” “Almost Like Being in Love” and a slowed down cover of Evita’s Night of a Thousand Stars.” Billy Stritch’s accompaniment elevates anyone he backs and adds so many elements of emotion, style, and panache to these standards. His instrumental break in “Fly Me to the Moon” was a perfect example of his added value.

A medley of Bobby Short New York tunes (“My Personal Property,” “Slumming on Park Avenue” and “I Happen to Like New York”) probably plays better in the Big Apple. One of my favorite songs, Alan Jay Lerner / Frederick Loewe’s “Show Me” from My Fair Lady was a delight as was the little performed “Gotta Have Me Go with You” (Gershwin/Arlen) from Judy Garland’s A Star is Born. Onstage Von Essen is bubbly, congenial and packed with energy.

Bay Area Cabaret continues its season with Venetian Evenings, a musical tribute to the fabled Venetian Room on March 24th, followed by the season finale with Julie Benko (Funny Girl, Harmony) on Aril 14th.




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