Archive for December, 2011

About twenty years or so ago in cabaret, a young gentleman by the name of Jim Pallone made his debut at Steve McGraw’s on West 72nd Street (formerly Palsson’s, currently the Triad). His opera-theater voice and presentation were so powerful that within a short amount of time, he became very much a front runner in the arena, appearing in many a benefit concert besides receiving one award nomination after another, and rightfully so. Indeed, it left many wondering if Pallone would ever have a worthy successor. That personage has been discovered in the form of the breathtaking Charles West, who this evening at 11:15 will close out what has been nothing less than a spectacular debut, entitled Charles West…Feeling Good and running as always at Don’t Tell Mama, 343 West 46th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues. West, the current standby for the role of El Gallo in The Fantasticks at the Jerry Orbach Theater, emerges as a sure bet for much-deserved success in the cabaret community, and absolutely takes his place among the New Faces of 2012. In a show directed and co-written by Mark Hawbecker and with musical direction by the ever-excellent Steven Ray Watkins, not to mention the marvelous work by Jim Griffith on lights and sound, this presentation deserves to run far beyond the end of the year. None of this is to say that West takes the stage with the confidence of a seasoned cabaret pro, but it may well be the best raw beginning enjoyed by an audience in many a moon. His ability to communicate a lyric coupled with his glorious vocals and not merely handsome visage but charismatic and oh-so-sexy demeanor make him a natural for the art form. In point of fact, he comes across rather as a sane counterpart to Marc Kudisch, and should most certainly enjoy the same type of success in due time.

Leading off with Bricusse and Newley’s “Feeling Good,” West appears not merely sultry but a delicious departure from the customary “Broadway glamour” so many theater entertainers display in their initial cabaret outing. “Something’s Coming,” though perhaps a tad “lounge-y” at times, works to the hilt, and he follows with a parody of “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” with a lyric by Hawbecker that easily takes its place among the very best work of Gerard Alessandrini and the Forbidden Broadway canon. From there, a trio of songs that would be considered extremely risky pickings (“On the Street Where You Live,” “Why God Why?” and “Some Enchanted Evening”) are simply transformed into wondrous mastery. What follows is a selection of songs from upcoming Jerry Orbach tribute It’s Nice To Remember, including “Lullaby of Broadway,” “Razzle Dazzle,” “Everybody Likes You,” “Promises Promises,” and a medley of “My Time Of Day,” “Luck Be a Lady” and “I Can See It.” He even makes it a point to mention Orbach’s non-musical theater efforts, including the sizzling play Scuba Duba, and it’s more than obvious that West has done thorough homework. And he goes so bravely far as to introduce material not from the Broadway catalog or the American Songbook, among them a delectable “Stray Cat Strut” by Brian Setzer and the Stray Cats, and by the time he finishes the evening with “Try to Remember” (accompanying himself at the piano, no less), West is a winner on each and every count.

Please, won’t you take this advice I hand you like a brother? If you are finding yourself later this evening with no plans and wish to indulge in a brand-new and extremely exciting cabaret discovery, truck on down to Don’t Tell Mama to catch Charles West. You’ll be very glad you did, and by all means, tell them I sent you.