The Musicals of Seth Bisen- Hersh
Don’t Tell Mama’s
Oct 30, 2021
By Aron Bederson
The afternoon was a love fest as fans and friends of composer-lyricist Seth Bisen-Hersh came to hear a concert version of songs from his musicals “More To Love,” “The Diamond As Big as The Ritz,” and the more recent, “Love Quirks,” which had a run last year at St. Luke’s Theatre. The performance brought performers from all of three shows together and was accompanied by Bisen-Hersh, himself, on the piano. The wonderful band comprised of bassist- Joseph Wallace-Cellist Paul Swensen and drummer Josh Priest.
In the pre-show patter, Bisen-Hersh promised to not talk too much as in previous concerts (although those who wanted to hear more of him could listen to his podcast). He then began at the piano with the band singing Something More from his musical “Stanley’s Party.” He sold the song with a tin-pan alley sound and style to his singing. It was a strong opening which set the stage for his first set of performers, Adam B. Shapiro and Miriam Kushel, who sang three songs from Bisen-Hersh’s musical “More To Love,” a musical based on our society’s obsession with looks, weight and food.
The set began with Adam B. Shapiro’s entertaining rendition of Eat Dessert First! We might as well enjoy life since we don’t know what it will bring. Shapiro sold the song which ended with a display of his powerful high notes. Miriam Kushel’s interpretation of Love Me For Me was funny and touching. Kushel’s powerful soprano voice was perfectly suited to the sentiment of the song. The set ended with Shapiro and Kushel in the charming duet-The Honey in My Tea. Bisen-Hersh’s lyrics were clever and the two made a charming couple with a great sound!
The next set of songs was from “The Diamond as Big as The Ritz,” which was based on the novella by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The set began with the charming Viveca Chow who has a lovely soprano and sang Waiting to Be Alone beautifully with a big, showy ending. Mathew Schatz used his strong voice, falsetto and focused approach in story-telling to poignant effect in Cut A Deal. In the next song, Enough Already, clad in a knitted cap and overcoat, Erin Lamar seemed as if he might have been in RENT. He was powerful and clear in this anthem against the many social injustices we all face.
Songs from “The Secret Adversary” followed. The first song, Here For Hire was an upbeat duet featuring Bisen-Hersh and Viveca Chow. They worked well together and sold the piece. In I Can Keep A Secret, Julia Ellen Richardson brought Bisen-Hersh’s clever lyrics to life. The song was full of sexual innuendos and funny situations-her character dumped the son she was dating for the father! She demonstrated her high notes in the song’s ending, a pattern throughout the afternoon but she certainly had them. Viveca Chow was charming as always in Why Would He Do this To Me but could’ve also found more and different levels in her performance. Ellis Gage’s interpretation of Could She Be In Love? was sweet and touching. His vocal quality, and fast, light vibrato, was well suited for the piece.
The last group of songs was from Bisen-Hersh’s most recent musical “Love Quirks.” The fine band played the first piece which was followed by the cast of “Love Quirks,” Erin Lamar, Maggie McDowell, Mathew Schatz and Lauren Testerman who came on stage and delivered lines about the trials and tribulations in the search for love. The humorous opening led into It Never Works.
Each singer was very strong individually and as a group had a wonderful sound. In Lets Just Be Friends, Mathew Schatz brought Bisen-Hersh’s clever lyrics like “I brought you the Times and a croissant-it’s clear what I want!” to life. In Darling I Loved You/Who Knows Why, Maggie McDowell and Lauren Testerman found a beautiful quality together. Waking featured Testerman citing her complaints about a guy in a clear, cutting voice. Um, Yea, sung by Erin Lamar was about a bad (gay) date courtesy of OK Cupid. Lamar recreated the characters with humor and sincerity. In The Circle, Maggie McDowell sang about the repetitive pattern of terrible dates. The song built well and had great lines like “One even tried to bite! Happy Halloween!” The last song, In Love brought the cast back on stage singing about being “completely cliched in love.” The song finished powerfully with all 4 singers. The afternoon ended with Bisen-Hersh thanking everyone for the great joy performing live brought him. In the “prepared encore song” Dreams, sung by Julia Ellen Richardson, the singer passionately sang about how she would “dream until I die.”
Bisen-Hersh was wonderfully at home at Don’t Tell Mama, and it was clear throughout the afternoon that there were fans of the performers, and Bisen-Hersh, in the house. When a performer went up on their lyrics, the audience only cheered more. The warmth and joy of the concert was infectious. We were all happy to witness this celebration of Bisen-Hersh’s work and the musicians and singers who realized it.