November 28, 2015
Reviewed by Victoria Ordin for Cabaret Scenes
Harold Sanditen’s Flyin’ High, a live recording at London’s The Crazy Coqs (where Sanditen has long hosted an open mic) is a must-buy for all lovers of cabaret. It ranks with the excellent Live at 54 Below CDs which can be enjoyed over and over (Laura Benanti, Sierra Boggess, and Jarrod Spector come to mind). Superbly produced with an outstanding band providing backup vocals (Michael Rawlston on piano, Tom Mansi on upright bass, Jonathan “Kitch” Kitching on drums/percussion), one immediately sees why this show has already reached Paris and Los Angeles, with shows in Tokyo and Lisbon in the works.
Many musicians love and find inspiration in travel, but Sanditen truly embodies “wanderlust.” The Tulsa native who calls London home has traveled to 66 countries from Argentina to Zimbabwe. As charismatic and entertaining a raconteur as he is a singer, Sanditen keeps audiences laughing throughout the show (no laugh-track here!). The biggest laugh came from his account of the Trobrian Islands in New Guinea, which has its own version of Rio’s Carnival. Women are encouraged to be as sexually aggressive as men, and Sanditen “was taking no chances,” essentially barricading himself in his room. This anecdote gives way to a gorgeous rendition of “The Look of Love” (Bacharach/David).
The first track, “Come Fly with Me”/“(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66” (Cahn & Van Heusen/Troup)” is an apt, though not surprising, choice for an opener to this musical travelogue. The performer follows the standard with “Pass That Peace Pipe” (Edens/Martin), a nod to his Oklahoma origins. “Rocky Raccoon” (Lennon/McCartney/Donovan) and “Up on the Roof” (Goffin/King) are both successful. “One Night Only”/“Speak Low” (Eyen & Krieger/Nash & Weill) less so, but still well done.
Sanditen’s voice has admirable clarity and polish, whether he’s jazzing and hamming it up in “No More Blues” (De Morales/Jobim/Hendricks/Cavanaugh) or playing it straight in the show’s poignant and beautiful closing number, “In My Life” (Lennon/McCartney). Flyin’ High does not persuade me to climb a mountain in Guatemala, but it certainly makes me want to a hop a plane to see Sanditen’s next show in Europe!