Photo Credit: Sue Matsuki
Come Croon with Me
Green Room 42
Nov 22, 2019, 7PM
Mark William, a young man now in his 20’s, has an unexpectedly clear baritone voice. Looking at William one might think the program would be filled with contemporary pop and show tunes, and not American Songbook; more Justin Bieber than Frank Sinatra! But, if you close your eyes and just take in the voice, you’d swear that you were in a 1940’s movie listening to a rat-packer. His clean-cut image and sparkly jacket are clear indicators of a Sinatra-esque male singer on stage, but with a decidedly more contemporary flair.
After an overture by his super little big band (6 pieces) led by Musical Director/Arranger, Clint Edwards, William took to the stage with a swinging version medley of “A Lot of Livin’ To Do / Shine It On” (Strouse/Adams and Kander/Ebb). The arrangements were very big band and Las Vegas Nightclub-like and, to William’s credit, he knew his charts and delivered on each of them, but they remain complicated, maybe sometimes a little too busy at the expense of a more “cabaret” style, lyric driven connection. The show was billed as a cabaret act when, in fact, it was more of a nightclub act which would work well in a Las Vegas lounge and/or cruise ship. This is not mentioned disparagingly. This was a great show, with amazing charts, and beautifully sung. But it was not what we consider a cabaret act. William could easily make a lot of money in the above-mentioned venues. He’s polished, and talented. General audiences will love what he has to offer, which is considerable.
What distinguishes a nightclub act from a cabaret act is the commitment to lyric connection. And, while William had may moments of sweet, pure, real connection, particularly on his original song “Wherever We Land” and later with “I’ve Got to be Me” (Walter Marks) and the iconic “I Am What I Am” (Jerry Herman). The overall show was more style (admittedly great style) over connection. Also interesting was his take on the Bruno Mars song, “Just the Way You Are.”
Program-wise there were too many medleys. A great song should be allowed to stand alone, and a great medley should also stand out as a special piece in the show with the medley being clever and interwoven so that the two songs now seem like they are one. Of the 13 songs in the program, there were 6 medleys, 3 of which were composed of 3 tunes each. This is a big “ask” in cabaret and, again, more of a nightclub-type choice.
At one point in the show, William told us he was not concerned about pronouns and, honestly, here in New York, no one is anymore but the point is, suddenly, the lyric connection was there – complete and pure, and fantastic. But, if pronouns really don’t matter (and one is committed to one’s subtext, knowing who it is one is singing to…there should be no discernible difference in the performance. The same connection should there, not because of the pronouns, but maybe in spite of them.
His stories and storytelling were very good, organic and sincere. When he told us that he felt alone until he found “his voice” I believed him. However, in the next minute, he put on his tap shoes and did a brief tap dance. However engaging it might’ve been, this was not necessary. It was not organic and seemed only to show us, or show off, how very talented he is? Yes, he is very, very talented but sometimes too much of a good thing is still just too much. He’s enough without the “plate-spinning.”
William works with an impressive Director/Producer team. Their vision for him seems to be as a nightclub entertainer, which is a great choice (no disparagement there). Cabaret may not be his genre. Although he could still do his act here, in these amazing rooms, perhaps he should be re-branded as the remarkable nightclub singer that he is, rather than impose the word Cabaret on him which creates an entirely different set of expectations about what we are about to see and hear. And this young man is worth both seeing and hearing.
“Mark William: Come Croon with Me” (Yellow Sound Label) is now on all streaming platforms.