Raven O: One Night With You
The former Cirque du Soleil star's new show amply displays his talents as both storyteller and song stylist.
The artist first emerged on the New York scene as a go-go boy at nightclubs and a singer at underground cabarets in the late 1980s. More recently, he spent three years as one of the stars of Cirque du Soleil's Zumanity in Las Vegas and had a long-running gig as host at the NYC burlesque club, The Box.
In One Night With You, Raven relates tales about how he left his native Hawaii, lived homeless on the streets of New York, worked as a hustler, experienced drug addiction, and endured various relationship woes. There's a clear arc of self-realization -- and learning to let other people in -- that provides the show with a narrative spine. And while that's hardly a unique theme as far as autobiographical shows go, Raven's stories are funny, and at times, genuinely moving.
Interspersed with his tales are numerous songs. For someone who was a fixture in New York's punk and post-punk scenes, his selections may come across as surprisingly traditional. He croons "Fly Me to the Moon," delivers a sultry "Ring of Fire," and sings a sweet version of "Rainy Days and Mondays." Many of his selections have a jazzy arrangement, with the performer backed up by musician Daniel Fabricatore on bass. Particularly noteworthy is his soulful interpretation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein standard "My Favorite Things," from The Sound of Music.
The majority of the tunes also tie into the stories he's telling, such as back-to-back renditions of "Just a Gigolo" and Cole Porter's "Love for Sale," as Raven relates his philosophy about being a whore in both the literal and metaphorical sense. He also gets to the heart of Stephen Sondheim's "Being Alive" from Company as he talks about how he always liked the song, but could never figure out how to sing it properly until he fell in love and learned what it means to be in a good relationship.
However, while he's very "out" in printed interviews, within the show Raven is oddly coy about the gender of his partners. He never drops a pronoun regarding his lovers and in relating details about one of his exes, he refers to the person by simply using a derogatory term for a part of a woman's anatomy. The omission probably wouldn't even seem so strange if he weren't so candid about so many other aspects of his life.
The final song Raven delivers is an original entitled "Together," for which he wrote the lyrics and co-wrote the music with Robert Cowie. It's quite catchy and makes you wonder why the performer didn't include more self-penned tunes. Maybe he simply wants to leave the audience begging for more, as just one night with Raven O is clearly not going to be enough.