- CHARITY BENEFIT
Reviewed by Joe Regan, Jr.
Frank Loman recently made his solo debut in the United States. With the voice of an angel, superb English diction, and extraordinary acting talent, Loman appeared at Don’t Tell Mama in a program entitled “Dangerous Cabaret.” He was joined by the superbly talented musical director Michael Ferreri and a very special guest star, the award-winning Joan Jaffe. Born and raised in Germany, Loman’s European theatrical credits include Polanski’s production of Dance of the Vampires, Les Miserables, and Titanic. In 2011, he appeared with Ellen Verenieks in a program entitled “Lyrical Linguists from London.”
“Dangerous Cabaret” was devoted to three composer-lyricists: John Bucchino, Brett Karr, and Stephen Sondheim. Karr, whose name might be unfamiliar, is a well-known psychotherapist with a taste for the darker side of London’s theatreland. His song “Dangerous Cabaret” proved to be an outrageous opening for Loman’s act and allowed him to run the gamut from joy to despair with extremely witty lyric rhymes, some of which referenced New York‘s cabaret scene.
Bucchino’s “Grateful” followed “Dangerous Cabaret.” Many cabaret singers include this song in their act, but I can honestly say that Loman’s version was so skillfully sung and acted that it was as if I was hearing it for the very first time.
Loman discussed his first impressions of New York and shared the one song that defined it all for him: Sondheim’s “What More Do I Need.” Two more Bucchino ballads, the sad and wry “Sweet Dreams” and the glorious “Unexpressed,” followed. I was beginning to ache from the ballad-heavy beginning of the act, but suddenly we were transported by a Karr original about Loman’s crush on Prince William called “Fanfare for William,” which had him fancifully donning a tiara for a wedding with the prince at the palace. It was hysterically funny, and the rhymes were delicious. “Fanfare for William” was combined with Sondheim’s “Steps of the Palace” from Into the Woods for even further fun. By this time, Loman had the crowd of cabaret mavens thoroughly on his side and applauding madly.
Oh, but let’s not forget the special guest of the evening! The great Joan Jaffe explained that she had never been in a Sondheim show but had toured with Chita Rivera in Sweet Charity. Jaffe gave us a brilliant interpretation of Sondheim’s “Lovely,” complete with a chair prop like the dance hall girls singing “Big Spender.” She even draped herself against Ferrari’s piano with comic body language. Jaffe should definitely include this interpretation in her future appearances.
Loman restored calm with another Bucchino number, the heartbreaking “If I Ever Say I’m Over You.” He gave a short speech about how much he loved Sondheim’s use of words, and then he said he would sing the two songs in which Sondheim came the closest to using the “F” word! Of course, he leapt onto the piano and gave us “Can That Boy F—Foxtrot!” Then, stage center with appropriate props, he performed “I Never Do Anything Twice.” After Bucchino’s tender “Playbill,” he fiercely attacked Bucchino’s “Taking the Wheel” and soared to spectacular high notes. Throughout the act, Ferrari’s arrangements and piano work were brilliant. At times he sounded like a one-man symphony orchestra, while at other times he drew out expressive chords behind Loman’s voice.
For the last two numbers, Loman returned to Sondheim. In the sensitively beautiful “Move On,” his slow pacing built up to soaring final notes. The encore was a simple and expressive “Send in the Clowns” with additional show lyrics that are not usually found in the standard cabaret version. The show made it clear that Loman is a man to watch who compares favorably with many male cabaret stars in the United States. His return to the US will be greatly anticipated.
Joan Jaffe returns with her MAC Award winning show “Man-Ha-Ha-Ha-tan” at Don’t Tell Mama Sunday, May 6th at 7:30 p.m. Reservations are strongly recommended.