Thursday, December 24, 2009

Life Is A Cabaret

You don't need to pack a suitcase or wait in a long security line to enjoy the pleasures of travel at Simon Green: Traveling Light, playing at 59E59 as part of Brits Off Broadway through January 3.

Green and piano player/arranger David Shrubsole expertly intersperse well-known songs like "How Deep is the Ocean" (Berlin) and obscurities like an amusing 1915 ditty "Some Little Bug" (Burt, Atwell, and Hein) with quotes and poetry by Mark Twain, A.A. Gill, and Walt Whitman. Each number has been carefully chosen and arranged--take the way "So Pretty," (Comden and Green/Bernstein) a song about a child questioning war, segues into "Children Will Listen" (Sondheim) or the way Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory's "Pure Imagination" (Bricusse) leads into "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" (Lennon/McCartney).

To tell the truth, I hadn't heard of West End actor Simon Green, but as an Anglophile was attracted to the show based on its billing as "cabaret with British flair." Green has a soothing voice and stage presence, making the audience feel welcome and willing to take the journey with him.

The next night, I concluded my season of festive concert going with The Holiday Guys --Marc Kudisch and Jeffry Denman--at Gotham Comedy Club. That show (now closed) played off of their different personalities with Kudisch in comfy jammies (holiday wear) and Denman in a dapper suit. The Jewish Kudisch sang some Channukah numbers while explaining to Denman about the way Jews feel about Christmas. One of my favorite moments was in the middle of a duet of "Christmas Time Is Here," musical director Dan Lipton interrupted to recite Linus's monologue from A Charlie Brown Christmas. Denman asked how he knew the monologue to which he replied "I'm Jewish." Kudisch explained that Jews are jealous of Christmas, so "Nobody does Christmas like the Jews."

Photo credit: Tim Schultheis
The stage (complete with a fake fire and decorations) was fairly small, but it didn't keep Denman from displaying his superb dancing in a dream sequence (complete with Kudisch sporting a rat nose and sword a la The Nutcracker).

My only complaint is the location of Gotham Comedy Club. The way the tables are arranged means that some sightlines are much better than others, plus they have a two drink minimum for their overpriced drinks. I do hope that Denman and Kudisch make this a holiday tradition, but maybe they can find a better venue next time.

Note: I was invited to see Simon Green: Traveling Light for free and paid for my ticket to The Holiday Guys.

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