In his cabaret debut at Don't Tell Mama, Scot Wisniewski sings Stephen Sondheim's "Another Hundred People," a song about the daily arrival in New York of innocent wannabes. Wisniewski is one of them, and he knows it. Like so many that have come before, he has constructed an act around his wide-eyed desire to come to the Big Town and make it in show business. May God have mercy on his soul.
Happily, Wisniewski has already been blessed with one small miracle; he has a formidable voice, particularly in his mid and lower registers. In this well crafted show, modestly if hopefully titled The Beginning, he uses the vehicle of cabaret wisely to both display and hone his talents. Audiences will want to take notice. A tall, good-looking kid, Wisniewski wears his ambition on his sleeve and gets away with it, thanks to his endearing innocence. He's further protected by director Linda Amiel Burns' staging -- which finds a healthy balance between the singer's self-possession and his youthful enthusiasm -- and the professionalism of his musical director/pianist, Bryon Sommers.
At this very early point in his professional career, Wisniewski displays a great deal of raw talent, though it's clearly cooking rapidly. He has an exciting voice but doesn't allow himself the opportunity to really cut loose; he hits certain notes and delivers certain musical phrases with lusty abandon, then pulls back. He sings with poise but not with passion. Nonetheless, he offers a sweet and lovely "Why Do People Fall in Love" and, in another Wildhorn/Murphy song, rightly suggests that "Anything Can Happen."
The only major misstep in the show is Wisniewski's inclusion of "Welcome to Holiday Inn" (Coleman/Fields). In attempting to illustrate how he's surviving while trying to make it to Broadway, he uses this song poorly and makes himself out to be rather sleazy in the process. We doubt that was his intention, as everything that comes before and after sends quite the opposite message. Intended as a comedy number, "...Holiday Inn" fails because Wisniewski is not inherently funny; he'll need to pick his comic relief bits more carefully. Otherwise, and essentially, he's a talented, sincere singer. And if he's not yet an incisive interpreter of lyrics, his voice is fine enough that he can get by on that alone for now.
You can catch Scot Wisniewski at The Beginning on Thursday, August 15, 8:00 pm, at Don't Tell Mama.
[More cabaret reviews by the Siegels can be found at www.cabarethotlineonline.com]