cabaret

Lauren Krass at The Duplex

Lauren Krass

A Krass Act

The Duplex, NYC, January 12th, 2018

How do you move beyond your dad walking out on your family at the age of seven? You write jokes about it and become a comedian. At least that is what Lauren Krass did for her show “A Krass Act” where she exemplified the modern conception of bravery by showcasing the extent of what dirty laundry might be lurking behind the veil of her black dress.

Of course in some cases it was actually dirty laundry. Spinning a lot of jokes through the lens of romantic rejection, she had arguably her most memorable story about thinking a former flame had left a spillover from steamy drunk sex the night before on her birthday dress. Only to later discover through sly detective work that it was actually tears and the powdered sugar of donuts. Ah, and the trivialities of dating in New York City, aren’t bad enough?

Yes, the show and her jokes take after its title and Lauren’s apt last name. She was crass, bold, and easily entertaining turning often actually pretty serious stories about alcohol and reconnecting with lost fathers into not so subtle jabs at the mysteries of now old world words like Myspace.  If you’re looking for a performer with a firm grasp of irony and enough of a sense of humor to make light of basically everything, Krass is most certainly your gal. I think that the best part of her performance is that she seems to be genuinely comfortable with who she is and excited about where her work will take her.

Photo taken from LaurenKrass.com

Photo taken from LaurenKrass.com

For more info on Lauren Krass check out LaurenKrass.com.

Guilty Pleasures Cabaret at the Duplex

This review of Guilty Pleasures Cabaret at The Duplex was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Guilty Pleasures Cabaret
Directed & Produced by Bridget Bose & Andrea Palesh
M.C. - Katie Sasse
The Duplex
61 Christopher Street
New York, New York 10014
Reviewed 10/13/17

Fortunately for my friends and I on a spooky Friday, the 13th, in October, we got the good end of the luck spectrum in attending a phenomenal show performed by the Guilty Pleasures Cabaretcrew in tribute to the 1990s and Y2K. Not only were they a well-choreographed dance group, but they included clever raps, songs, and jabs that stoked the audience's excitement. Frankly, it would be too easy to discount the talent level of these dancers given that Burlesque has lost some of its traditionally sophisticated airs lending more to stylish stripteases, but if you did that, you'd be missing out on the biggest in-secret dying to break beyond the borders of Manhattan's West Village. These girls are the newest innovative dance troupe to hit New York continuing the traditions of the first Rockettes and even the Ziegfeld dancers by combining multiple musical and dance styles to create a stunning effect.

One of the clear advantages of their performance is that it is sexy, but it's way too classy to not give it more than a couple of hashtags on social media. Each dance and each dancer brought a unique twist to the evening. I'll share with you some of the best-executed performances in order to give you some insight into what you can expect if you decide to experience Guilty Pleasures Cabaret in the flesh.

In the first of their 1990s mashups, which led off the night, Megan Stricker shined as the lead in a trio: schoolgirl uniform dance to Britney Spears' classic pop hit, "Oops!...I Did It Again." Throughout the mashup, the performers executed without hesitation, and the costume changes were so efficient that what must have been less than 60-second song clips were enough to go from sports bras to glittering leotards. The majority of the songs in the Guilty Girls' set were some variation of this style with well-done, themed costumes and acrobatic dance moves set to 90s music such as a raunchy "Come As You Are" that Kurt Cobain couldn't have imagined.

Photo provided by Guilty Pleasures Cabaret

Photo provided by Guilty Pleasures Cabaret

There were a couple of other dance numbers that broke the mold. One of them being "Ray Of Light" led by the exceptional Andrea Palesh. This song demonstrated the girls' ability to work together with incredible timing and coordination. Basically a flashlight dance with colored lights, the girls were able to mime a story in a movement that evoked deeper emotion when performed in almost complete darkness. When set between songs featuring glitz and glamour, it had a strong effect.

The third song I felt was best executed and conceived was the rap to "Shoop" by Bridget Bose. If you ever imagined a white girl rapping, you probably didn't imagine the show Bose put on as her fellow performers danced synchronously to her left. There were plenty of the girls' trademark hair flips and high kicks too, but Bose's ability to drop heavy lead with more than just her legs was fantastic.

Ultimately, dancers owned the spotlight, but it was stolen temporarily by an incredibly talented supporting cast including M.C. Katie Sasse and vocalists Melissa Becker, Julia Goretsky, and Shayna Blass. If you haven't seen these simmering singers perform, they are worth a look. It was exciting to see the budding star, Shayna Blass, perform again. She crushed it on the song "Criminal" and brought the whole 90s spoof night home with a killer graduation speech which played off many of the misconceptions of the 1990s such as using old cell phones and the early opinion of the internet.

Fantastic stuff all around. I can't say enough about these performers. Their shows are more than fun. Check them out for the upcoming Halloween events from the 27th through the 29th at The Duplex. Get tickets or find out more information at http://www.guiltypleasurescabaret.com/ 

Michelle DellaFave @ the Met Room

This review of Michelle DellaFave's Cool Burn at The Metropolitan Room was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Cool Burn
Starring Michelle DellaFave
Musical Director: Richie Vitale
The Metropolitan Room
34 West 22nd Street
New York, New York 10010
Reviewed 6/16/17

Michelle DellaFave looked stunning in a tight-fitting blue dress especially considering this accomplished woman appeared on Dean Martin's television series, "The Golddiggers" in the late 1960s. Her voice shocked the audience too as Michelle consistently displayed an impressive range that once prompted Dean to say, "this girl can sing!" Her show, Cool Burn, covered a number of stalwart choices that were popular during the 60s and 70s interspersed with Michelle's off-hand wit. Transitioning as smoothly between octaves as us normal-voiced people change channels on a television, Michelle reminded us she was indeed human by often introducing her songs in various voices such as a Russian accent for the comical classic, "Vodka." She was joined on stage by the Richie Vitale Quartet, which included a pianist, double bass, trumpet, and drummer. Richie, on the trumpet, directed the show and dazzled with a number of trumpet solos to which DellaFave danced.

Joined during the first song by a pair of young, male, well-dressed backup singers, Michelle shined from the moment she stepped on stage. She set the tone for the night with the heartfelt classic, "Am I The Same Girl" (Barbara Acklin, 1968). During the song, Michelle's backup singers danced and played off of her in mock flirtation as she asked them, "Why don't you stop and think it over?" While the dance moves drew a few hoots and hollers from the crowd, they remained on the classy side of suggestive. Richie Vitale also entertained the audience with the first of many trumpet solos to which Michelle danced looking like she was having the time of her life.

Photo credit from  https://www.michelledellafave.net/  - on tour with the USO show

Photo credit from https://www.michelledellafave.net/ - on tour with the USO show

DellaFave credited her infectious smile and fun attitude to her father who liked Frank Sinatra. She, too, was raised in New Jersey like the great star. She really showed off her range with "At Long Last Love," a song Frank Sinatra popularized (originally written by Cole Porter in 1938). She went from sultry to aggressive as she jumped octaves in bursts. Things went along very smoothly through the first few numbers but when DellaFave slowed it down for Ella Fitzgerald's "Midnight Sun" (1957), it was a little difficult to understand her. The song had a beautiful melody, but at times she failed to sufficiently project. 

Michelle left the song behind and the genre by switching it up to the 1966 pop hit, "Got To Get You Into My Life" by The Beatles. It was a curious addition given the tone of most of the music, but fit the theme of mid-century hits. The crowd loved it too because the backup dancers came back to fight over the darling diva on stage. She sent them off, but called one of the two back with a tender, "Por Favor, I need the magic touch of your amour" ("Por Favor" by Doris Day 1965). The blend flowed well and allowed a young guitarist named Thayer who had joined in on the edge of the stage to join in for a solo duet with DellaFave. His pick danced along the guitar as Michelle presented "But Beautiful" (Nat King Cole, 1958) in a much faster pace than the original was performed.

Michelle continued to add twists and turns to her show's theme, which seemed to fit in terms of style, but not necessarily with any particular story. When she asked the audience to start snapping, I struggled to think of what song might be coming next until I recognized Michael Buble's "Fever." What a lovely way to burn indeed! The dancers came in and off stage for the next few numbers, but the young hunks' gyrations garnered special attention when Michelle toyed with them. It was fun to watch and I smirked, but she easily drew out the most laughter from the crowd with her rendition of "Vodka." Her dynamic range and off-kilter dancing made it a particularly fitting choice. It displayed her style and personality well.

For the most part, Michelle impressed with a vocal range that few other singers could match. At times this stretched her voice, but she had such depth combined with the ability to push herself that the occasional break in her voice disappeared between the throaty crescendos and high-pitched doodles. Michelle was truly a wonder to enjoy, and her song choices seemed to fit her personality and voice. She did stray out of the theme of the 60s and recalling her time on the Dean Martin Show a little bit for some more contemporary songs, but they were good choices to share who she was and to further showcase her talent. To find out more about Michelle, visit her website at https://www.michelledellafave.net

Frans Bloem at the Metropolitan Room

This review of Frans Bloem's Beyond Borders at The Metropolitan Room was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Beyond Borders
Starring Frans Bloem
Musical Director: Steve Sandberg
The Metropolitan Room
34 West 22nd Street
New York, New York 10010
Reviewed 5/26/17

We drank. Frans sang. Only a handful of us may have been able to stop clapping long enough to take another drink. He went to find a missing guest performer. We chatted briefly. A woman appeared on stage without introduction. Who was this mysterious woman? Who did the wildly entertaining Frans sneak in and out with barely a word from his own mouth? An alternate persona by the name of Maxime who turned an already good show into a great one leaving an indelible impression on the crowd. Trotting in on 7-inch pumps, affectionately nicknamed "stripper stilettos," Frans really strutted his stuff whilst thanking his "mommy" and "poppy" for giving him great legs even if he didn't have their help in achieving his goals. Raucous fun and laughter ensued.

But my, oh my, has Frans Bloem come a long way since starting as a street performer in Paris at age 17. He may have once as a young man traded washing dishes in the City of Lights for washing dishes in the City That Never Sleeps, but he certainly doesn't have to wash anyone else's dishes today. Since that first move from The Netherlands to Paris, he has now become a worldwide boulevardier even donning an expertly tailored white jacket he was gifted for performing in Hong Kong, By showing a myriad of crowds, in a variety of languages, he can put on a show, Frans has been able to overcome daunting obstacles. When he first moved to Paris, he couldn't pay 7 francs in 1971 to upgrade from a small flute called a Piccolo. He told us on this first flute, he used to sing the song "Pigalle." Then, with a skilled piano player to his right, he asked us singing the same song, "Would you like to visit Pigalle with me!" Frans took us back to another time, with his nostalgic touch sharing songs that spoke to him over the years such as "It Will Be My Day." He also gave us a taste of his own personality setting the stage for Maxime by singing songs like "La Boheme" and joking that "he was Bohemian already."

Using his language skills combined with his own infectious personality, Frans created a certain level of mystique even before donning the white gown and Maxime personality. He blended French with Dutch and German, joked about his accent sticking even after 40 years away from Holland, and then sang the Spanish song "Sabor a Mi." Not bad for a former dishwasher! Few people ever dream of having such a successful career. Few people can afford to finance a life in New York City by performing as a singer. Frans proved he earned it by doing a little bit of everything. The majority of the songs were in English and some were age-old classics such as "Brother Can You Spare A Dime." Although no longer contemporary, the majority of the audience recognized them immediately. Frans' story about how he became the man he is today took on a special resonance when, dressed as a woman, he sang, "What Makes A Man A Man," for which he received enthusiastic applause.

Regardless of song choice, Frans combined a flair for the dramatic with his keen sense of the exotic. He guided us into another world with his uncanny ability to sense the mood of the crowd. As the show progressed, he grew more flamboyant and pulled us deeper into his world and experiences as a world citizen. Frans became more and more animated playing off our emotional excitement. He moved along the stage, called out members of the audience, and threw his hands out in gestures at powerful moments. The excellent pianist, Steve Sandberg, helped to create this sense of a building atmosphere. His hands danced up and down the scales on the piano. As the choruses ended, Steve gave a little twist of his own that helped create a sense of harmony between piano and performer. He gradually got more daring with each of Frans' striking gestures giving the sense that the pair have been working together for quite a long time.

I greatly enjoyed Frans' show, and it seemed like everyone who attended was brought to life by Frans' smooth voice. His confidence fell off of him like feathers from an angel's wings. I do hope Frans stays home in New York and performs for us a few more times, but I would completely understand if he took a gig in Amsterdam. If you have a chance to see his new show, Beyond Borders, see it. Even if you are expecting the surprises he has in store, you will be impressed. Thank you, Frans, for living a true New York Story and for showing us the mantra "all are welcome" means something to someone somewhere. For more information regarding Frans Bloem, you can visit his website at www.FransBloem.com