Joshua Lance Dixon
Pack of One
Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, February 24, 2017
Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes
Bistro Award winner and 2016’s Mama’s Next BIG Act! winner Joshua Lance Dixon has presence, charm, movie star looks, a glorious voice and lots of talent. The only possible question for such a résumé is: what does he do with all of this bounty? For Pack of One, at least, the answer is that Dixon has scored a winner. The show is not only smartly conceived, but is put across by a performer who’s obviously loving the material, getting a kick out of it and convincing everyone he was actually there with the boys of the Rat Pack.
A spirited “Viva Las Vegas” (Doc Pomus/Mort Shuman) opened the show, bookending an informative, fun introduction. As the narrative spun out, Dixon paid tribute to each of the members of the Pack, with songs nicely curated to complement the clever, often amusing, text. “What Kind of Fool Am I?” paired with “Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)” — both by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley — paid tribute to Sammy Davis, Jr. (Pairing and intertwining two or more numbers was a consistent and successful feature of the show.) Dixon’s musicality was also especially evident in the variety and delivery of the material, from a jazzy “Birth of the Blues” (Ray Henderson/Buddy G. DeSylva and Lew Brown) to a slow, sexy ballad take on “That Old Black Magic” (Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer) to an especially poignant “Mr. Bojangles” (Jerry Jeff Walker). The singer, who has a great belt, has the sense to know when to use it, modulating each number to get the most out of its lyric.
Dixon is capable of great depth in communicating the story of a song. By training, he’s a reliable technician, and when he’s in the groove, as with a telling “Too Close for Comfort” (Larry Holofcener/George David Weiss and Jerry Bock), describing Peter Lawford’s role in the Pack, Dixon was downright mesmerizing. It was at this point in the show, too, that he settled firmly into the material, having launched with a subtle, breathy nervousness that eased out as he went along. Dean Martin, who role-played his fondness for booze, was represented by an upbeat and cheery “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” (Jimmy Van Heusen/Sammy Cahn). Among other songs for the chief Rat, Frank Sinatra, “Fly Me to the Moon” (“In Other Words”) (Bart Howard) was intertwined with “Come Fly with Me” (Van Heusen/Cahn), gliding into a joyful New York tribute medley of “New York’s My Home” (Gordon Jenkins), “Every Street’s a Boulevard in Old New York” (Jule Styne/Bob Hilliard) and “Theme from New York, New York” (John Kander/Fred Ebb). Hats off to director Lennie Watts who helped craft a terrific show, and to Musical Director and pianist Steven Ray Watkins, who contributed a few vocals and played a sturdy piano. Matt Scharfglass on the upright bass provided creative playing.