Consumers of cabaret and musical theater now have a place where they can do one-stop shopping. It's called The Storefront, and its shelves are full of talent. This relatively new company finds uniquely intimate ways to approach musical theater while also taking a theatrical approach toward cabaret.
The Storefront recently celebrated the grand opening of its new performance venue at the Metro Baptist Church, 410 West 40th Street. That event was followed shortly thereafter by The Storefront in Concert on two successive evenings. We were there the second night. Storefront producer/director, Phil Geoffrey Bond, presented a concert that generously mixed established cabaret artists with an equal number of new faces (and new voices) on the scene, all of whom impressed us with their talents. Among the familiar stars of the evening were Lennie Watts and Scott Coulter, belting out their version of the famous Judy/Barbra duet "Happy Days Are Here Again"/"Get Happy." Karen Mack and Michael Holland, whose hit show Gashole at Don't Tell Mama is a Storefront production, reprised their rendition of "Movin' Out"/"Jackie Blue" with a combination of precision and humor that actually induced the audience to start applauding in the middle of the number.
The Storefront in Concert offered our first opportunity to hear musical theater performer Kristy Cates, who showed us a world of talent in her full-throated and fully acted reading of Brett Kristofferson's "The Whole Wide World." Brandon Cutrell, also new to us, impressed with a delicate and poignant version of Sean Michael Flowers and Patrick Vaughn's "The Kids Back Home." Cates and Cutrell combined their voices for yet another of the evening's powerhouse duets, Stephen Schwartz's "In Whatever Time We Have."
Some of the veterans on hand performed new songs; for example, David Gurland sweetly put over a Michael Holland tune called "Stowaway." Other singers, new to the cabaret scene, did a fine job with well-known material: Marina MacNeal turned Stephen Sondheim's ballad "Children Will Listen" into a stirring anthem, and Maureen Kelley Stewart gave a winsome performance of Peter Allen's "I Could Have Been a Sailor." Eric Pickering, so winning in his cabaret debut last year, scored again with his moving rendition of a new Karen Mack tune called "Never Who." Marcus Simeone sounded angelic when singing what is fast becoming his signature number, "He Must be Beautiful."
In the heavenly setting of the Metro Baptist Church, the Storefront has found a wonderfully open performance space. On the other hand, the concert was bedeviled by muddy sound caused by the high ceilings; this church, like so many of its architectural brethren, is an echo chamber. The Storefront will have to investigate ways, beyond praying, to deal with the problem.
After The Storefront in Concert ended, we hurried down to The Players Club to catch the Genesius Guild's annual New Songwriter Valentine Show, already in progress. The evening's entertainment, produced by the indefatigable Sandi Durell, honored cabaret's unconquerable Julie Wilson. One of the performances of new songs that stood out was "Dance With Me" by Mary Liz McNamara, who accompanied herself on piano; in the tradition of Christine Lavin, McNamara is a songwriter/performer to watch closely. Also memorable: "I Love Clothes," by Charles Bloom, provided the opportunity for Bruce Linser to gleefully litter the stage with every imaginable piece of outerwear and underwear while giving one of the event's most amusing performances.
With this show, The Genesius Guild offered cabaret an early and most welcome valentine. Here's looking forward to its next event.
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