Daniel Beaty Does Broadway
Which is a long way of saying that, if Beaty's new cabaret show, "The Broadway Songs I Love," is only a qualified success, it's not due to any lack of talent. The show that opened on Friday night at the Woodland Park Cultural Center – and will be performed again today at 8 p.m. – simply shows that Beaty isn't yet a seasoned cabaret performer. He can sing these songs, but the impression was that he doesn't yet inhabit them stylistically, tonally, or emotionally.
The hour-long show featured Beaty performing Broadway songs ranging from "Old Man River" – a suspect choice for opening number, because it immediately signals the audience that Beaty is no Paul Robeson* – to "This is the Moment" from "Jeckyll and Hyde."
What was surprising, and a little disappointing, was how little variety Beaty brought to his tone – surprising because the plethora of voices was one of the the high points of "Emergence-SEE!" Instead Beaty gave us a more-or-less continuous operatic baritone, with little attention paid to the details of the text, and with too many lapses in diction. (For instance, as Beaty sang it, the final line of "This is the Moment" was "this is the greatest moment of the mall.") Yet when he did alter his tone, as in "Mr. Cellophane" from "Chicago," he seemed completely comfortable, and the full house, seated cabaret-style, ate it up. Perhaps Beaty simply needs to feel the songs more strongly in their dramatic context.
The high points were two bits from "Emergence-SEE!", featuring the children Peter and Clarissa. As Clarissa, Beaty accomplished what Zoe Caldwell said was the most wonderful thing an actor could do: Turning an audience, in an instant, from laughter to tears. (Caldwell talked about this at Tuesday night's public conversation with Chip Shaw.)
In Beaty's defense, the center's dry-as-dust acoustics are extremely difficult for a performer. When you get nothing back from the hall, it's natural to start forcing things.
Pianist Dan Brink accompanied with his customary excellence.
For more information, visit the CFWT website.
* Beaty even used Robeson's version of Hammerstein's lyrics.