Michael Vaccaro's Back to Broadway is a deliciously demented celebration of one man's obsession with musical theater. Having attended a performance of the original production of Funny Girl (starring you-know-who) while still in the womb, Vaccaro considers Broadway musicals to be his birthright; and, by all appearances, his love for them is unabated.
It is also unrequited. Comically lamenting his inability thus far to make the quantum leap to the Great White Way, Vaccaro takes us on a journey -- call it a jaunt -- through his life in show business. The result is a cabaret act at Don't Tell Mama that captures the essence of musical comedy.
One of Vaccaro's greatest assets is the fact that he's as adorable on stage as a puppy dog -- but personality will only take an entertainer so far. His other essential asset, the gift that really makes his show work, is his ability to add fine points to a broad comic style. This wildly exuberant performer seems to surprise his supporting cast as much as his audience with his unexpected antics. He gets some of his biggest laughs by smartly undercutting the big stuff with small gestures and inspired little throwaway remarks. (For example: In his blowout rendition of "Freddy, My Love" from Grease, he makes sure that we notice the false rhyme of "confetti" with "Freddy". It's hilarious.)
Like a great many musical comedy artists, Vaccaro doesn't have a world-class voice. Nonetheless, his singing is greatly improved since his last nutty cabaret act, which was a celebration of the 1970s. The point is that his vocal prowess is sufficient for the songs he chooses, particularly in the way that he approaches them. Performing some of the musical theater's great numbers in the youthful style of a kid in summer stock, Vaccaro scores with the help of his inventive musical director, Tracy Stark, and two impressive backup singers: Lennie Watts and Heidi Weyhmueller. Watts directs these shenanigans with a playful spirit that is very much in tune with Vaccaro's impish personality. The show is all the richer for the arsenal of talents provided by these three valuable collaborators.
This is a well crafted show in which every song is smartly set up. Vaccaro introduces his version of "Frank Mills" from Hair with a story about performing in a pre-pubescent production of that seminal rock musical -- and he's got a photo of himself in his mother's wig to prove it! Speaking of that photo: Cabaret hasn't seen a better use of props since Sam Sagankahn last performed at Mama's. From flashlights to stuffed animals, Vaccaro's every choice and use of props brings a huge laugh.
Michael Vaccaro's Back to Broadway may be seen again at Don't Tell Mama on Sunday, September 22 and Saturday, September 28 -- both shows at 7:30pm.
[More cabaret reviews by the Siegels can be found at www.cabarethotlineonline.com]