Songs that Found Me
St. Louis, MO
December 19, 2021
By Katie McGrath
The opening lines of Steve Brammeier’s first song in his new, autobiographic show, “Songs that Found Me,” established the theme of a man who caught himself just in time from regret over what might have been:
On the last day of Pompeii, I thought I heard some poor boy say
Oh wow, man, if I knew then what I know now
I would’ve done more, been more than I’d been
Had fun, more sin, more mortal sin
Although it’s hard to venture a guess on the number or degree of sins Brammeier has racked up on his personal scoreboard, there’s no question that by “knowing now what he didn’t know then” his time on earth has been packed with fun.
In his intro to the sweet lullaby Everything Possible (Fred Small), Brammeier recalled that singing it with the Gateway Men’s Chorus as an “out gay father” in 1991 was a monumental, cathartic experience, and indeed, the tremor in his voice over certain phrases showed that it still moves him profoundly, thirty years later.
Brammeier’s “life re-set” references the recent psychological studies on the “Happiness U-Curve,” in which personal satisfaction declines with the onset of adulthood, eventually bottoms out and then increases with age. Author Jonathan Rauch could have been speaking for Brammeier when he wrote, “I have begun to feel again the sense of adventure that I recall from my 20s and 30s. I wake up thinking about the day ahead rather than the five decades past. Gratitude has returned.” That “attitude of gratitude” was clear throughout his show and was a gift to his audience.
Several of the “songs that found him” explored childhood from a grownup’s perspective. Child in Me Again (Annie Dinerman) and Ship in a Bottle (Amanda McBroom), in turn both magical and lonely, illuminated Steve’s good-boy youth. He playfully thumbed his nose at his model behavior with I Want to Be Evil as only a good boy could or would.
If he was a golden child, to the delight of his audience he relished the chance to be a naughty, 71-year-old man, recounting his naked yoga escapades in You Make Me Feel So Young (Josef Myrow and Mack Gordon) and his raunched-up version of My Heart Belongs to Daddy (Cole Porter).
A born crooner, Brammeier used his voice beautifully, and nowhere better than his takes on Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans? (Eddie DeLange and Louis Alter) and A Foggy Day in London Town (George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin). Both songs propelled the story of the courting of his long-time partner, punctuated by funny, self-deprecating anecdotes about their trans-continental romance. Here the show reached a lovely, heartfelt conclusion with This Far (Amanda McBroom).
Having reached this apex, his personal story shifted to a man facing his autumn years with a mix of peace and defiance with Soon It’s Going to Rain (Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt), The Summer Knows (Michel LeGrand and Alan and Marilyn Bergman) and his encore song, And When I Die (Laura Nyro), without a cloud of regret in his eyes.
Two major highlights of “Songs that Found Me” were first, The Blizzard (Judy Collins), with some alteration of the original lyrics, which in Brammeier’s version was a one-act play about discovery, heartbreak and reconciliation over the dissolution of his marriage to the mother of his sons. And, as always appreciated in cabaret, Brammeier delivered this rangy song without a hint of the vocal calisthenics it surely demanded of him. It simply flowed from his heart. Secondly, his closing song, Time to Change the Stars (Phyllis Pastore) gorgeously arranged by Music Director Patrick DeGennaro, became an anthem to holding on and staying true to our dreams.
Lucky for us, Brammeier’s decision to give voice to his dreams provided a thought provoking, honest and entertaining evening for his audience.
MUSIC DIRECTOR: Patrick DeGennaro
ADDITIONAL ARRANGEMENTS: Rick Jensen, Gregory Toroian
DIRECTOR: Lina Koutrakos
Editorial Disclosure: As is often the case with many cabaret performers and the reviewers who cover their shows, both in NYC, and across the country. The writer of this piece, Ms. McGrath, is a known associate of Steve Brammeier. In her own words Ms. McGrath has “attended each of his shows for over a decade. I’ve loved them all. “Songs That Found Me” is my favorite so far.” As Editor in Chief of Cabaret Hotspot, I both appreciate this disclosure, and have full confidence in Ms. McGrath’s ability to write objectively and constructively as she joins the Cabaret Hotspot team of Contributing Correspondents. – David Sabella, Editor in Chief, Cabaret Hotspot.