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Richie Barella (and Friends): #basicwhitebrah

| September 22, 2016

Richie Barella (and Friends)

#basicwhitebrah

Laurie Beechman Theatre, NYC, September 20, 2016

Reviewed by Randolph B. Eigenbrode for Cabaret Scenes

richie-barella-cabaret-scenes-magazine_212According to the press notes, #basicwhitebrah—the recent offering from “manchild” Richie Barella— celebrates everyone’s “favorite basic musical theater songs.” For those unacquainted with the youthful colloquialism, “basic”—according to the online Urban Dictionary—describes anything “involving obscenely obvious behavior, dress [or] action.” While the concert set out to memorialize these cliché tunes, it unfortunately emerged as a textbook example of what “basic” can be—in all senses of the word.

The evening was replete with anthems like “The Life of the Party” (Andrew Lippa), “On My Own” (Claude-Michel Schönberg/Alain Boublil/Herbert Kretzmer) and “Proud Lady” (Stephen Schwartz), played using their published “vocal selection s”  arrangements. Not one of the performers addressed the room but, rather, the first row of the balcony which is odd as there is no balcony at the Laurie Beechman Theatre. Across the board, the cast struggled with pitch and musicality and most disconcerting was that the evening seemed to dissolve into a scene reminiscent of a 2 AM piano bar: full of boozy post-college grads singing their favorite musical obsession tunes in complete defiance to voice type or musical journey.

Barella has charm, good-looks, a pleasant chameleon-like voice and showed promise in a simple yet earnest interpretation of “Run Away with Me” (Brian Lowdermilk/Kait Kerrigan). Guest Triona O’Callaghan brought the vocal pyrotechnics and fascinated with her stylings of “Let It Go” (Kristen Anderson-Lopez/Robert Lopez).

Rather than focus on the tedious nature of the evening, it’s this reviewer’s suggestion that young performers learn that cabaret is a technique honed through classes to differentiate it from musical theater performing and, most of all, auditioning. Crucial to the success of an evening like this one is the presence of a director who can inspire personal connection to the material as well as build an arc for the audience to experience. The artistic journey can be a tough one—scary and full of vulnerability—but the rewards are plentiful and it creates an experience that could never be described as “basic.”

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Category: Cabaret Reviews, New York City, New York City Cabaret Reviews, Regional

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