THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
Celebrating his recent and third Olivier Award, American stage star David Bedella gave us an evening of top-class cabaret from Brasserie Zedel’s intimate Crazy Coqs room. The management there are to be applauded for soldiering on with live relays to keep the flame alive.
Bedella should no longer be considered a ‘blow in’ here. His honeyed baritone voice and saturnine charm have been lighting up British stages now for 20 years.
His won his first Olivier as Satan in Jerry Springer -The Opera, the second for Lin Manuel Miranda’s salsa musical In the Heights (a perfect fit for this Latino from Gary, Indiana) and his third for & Juliet, which he’ll return to at the Shaftesbury Theatre, once we’re all out of this hell.
In a deftly chosen programme he reunited here with Steve Clark, a friend and long serving musical director of West End and regional theatre, on piano. Bedella’s credits in the UK have ranged from The Rocky Horror Show to Sweeney Todd to The Producers and prior to the UK he did 20 years on Chicago and New York stages including a long run in Smokey Joe’s Café on Broadway where his great soul voice was a perfect match for those Leiber and Stoller hits.
Bedella and Clark have a wonderful natural rapport and Clark’s arrangements brought in some outside online help when required, such as some hot brass for ‘Too Close for Comfort’. There, he reminisced about a youthful love of Eydie Gormé and it reminded us just how connection with a live audience is key to the cabaret experience. He wanted feedback. Nevertheless, he was able to rise above the situation and still totally engage us.
The set list didn’t rely on songs associated with his successes but rather a mix of his personal favorites, old and new. Clark gave him mellow arrangements for such classics as ‘New York State of Mind’ and ‘One Day in Your Life’ and he took us down some great byways, including a country music one, with Trisha Yearwood’s ‘Down On My Knees’. And what could be more apt for the present day than Cy Coleman’s ‘There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This’. He paid tribute to two personal favourites, one, David Bowie (whose birthday it was) with ‘Life on Mars’ and the other whom we lost this past year, Jerry Herman, with a medley of ‘I Won’t Send Roses’ and ‘Song in the Sand’.
He ended on a gentle but teary personal note with a hymn, ‘Let There Be Peace on Earth’, which he sang as a child at family gatherings.
Bedella’s talent is that he’s always present in the songs he sings no matter what the style. On the pop/easy listening numbers his take is crisp and clear, he doesn’t act them, and it gives off the vibe of an impromptu singalong at home, albeit from a trained professional.
Cabaret throws a lot of musical theatre performers because they either introduce too much ‘business’ and overinterpret the songs, rather than finding a way to communicate in a relaxed manner in an intimate setting. He’s got this down and let’s hope, in normal times, he will find time to do more of this.