Eight times a week, Cheryl Ladd kisses Tom Schmid. Before that, Schmid got kissed just as frequently by Bernadette Peters, and there was a period of about a month when Susan Lucci was the diva delivering the smackers. It's all in a night's work for Schmid, who plays the featured role of Mac in Broadway's Annie Get Your Gun. He also covers the starring role of Frank Butler, not to mention the major supporting roles of Buffalo Bill and Chief Sitting Bull. Being prepared to take on any one of these assignments on a moment's notice is a heavy responsibility; but it wasn't nearly as heavy, he learned, as performing alone on stage for an hour in his first solo cabaret show. We're pleased to report that he has the talent to become a cabaret star.
Tall and good-looking, Schmid possesses the easy charm of a natural performer and a vibrant, rich-timbered voice. Simply put, he has all the tools; some of them simply need sharpening. In his recent show Had it Only Begun... at Don't Tell Mama, Schmid presented a comically romantic image of himself as a young fellow coming to New York from Minnesota and looking for love in all the wrong places. Happily, he used all the right songs, and he set them up with patter that was economically crisp and entertaining.
One of the best things about the show was that Schmid occasionally grouped songs in clever, revealing ways. For instance, he started one riff with Tom Lehrer's "Masochism Tango." The playfully dark lyric of that tune, which leaves the singer at the mercy of his merciless lover, lead perfectly into Irving Berlin's "My Defenses Are Down" from (you've got it!) Annie Get Your Gun. Then, tongue-in-cheek, Schmid's character turned on a politically incorrect dime and sang Berlin's "The Girl That I Marry" (also from Annie Get Your Gun).
Schmid looks like a rugged leading man, but his ace is his unpredictability. You wouldn't expect him to suddenly launch into Steve Allen's hilariously silly "Mouth to Mouth Resuscitation," but his performance got an extra comic boost from the sheer surprise of his choosing the song. Because he is also a good actor, he reveled in the sophisticated, character-driven humor of Stephen Schwartz's "Proud Lady." On the other hand, Schmid wasn't nearly as convincing when he tried for high drama; he sang Maltby and Shire's "I Don't Remember Christmas" with far too little conviction, and the emotional temperature of his rendition of Rupert Holmes' "The People That You Never Get to Love" was too cool.
We have seen Schmid perform in cabaret twice before, both times as a participant in the Big Barry Birthday Bash, a merrily goofy, annual celebration of Barry Manilow's songs at Don't Tell Mama. On those occasions, Schmid was the guy we couldn't help but notice. If he anchors his next cabaret show with greater emotional depth, adding a more effectively serious side to his already winning comic skills, everyone will notice.