Adam Shapiro’s Guide to the Perfect Breakup
Metropolitan Room, NYC, March 15, 2017
Reviewed by Randolph B. Eigenbrode for Cabaret Scenes
How does that old joke go? Something like: “What do you do when you want to feel loved?… A cabaret.” And why shouldn’t Adam Shapiro feel the love by revisiting the piece that won him the 2013 MAC Award for Best Musical Comedy performer? Perhaps because time has shown some wear and tear on this one.
The premise is Shapiro, wanting to help us dampen the pain and devastation associated with going splitsville, has devised 10 easy steps for self-preservation. Of course, this is just a construct to find humor in a subject matter that many other performers use as an excuse to wallow in their own strife. Yes, the piece’s construction is strong—short, peppy, and with tons of opportunity to offer a cornucopia of characters and tones—Would you expect less from MD Barry Levitt and director Peter Napolitano?—but the execution got a bit muddy.
Shapiro, on the whole, works far too hard, feeling all the emotions for us and underlining the humor at almost every stop. Pieces like “Give My Best to the Blonde” (Fred Barton) and “Don Juan” (Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller) felt forced; both are list-songs (as is most of the material in this piece) and they require a tender hand to find a build and path to.
Shapiro has charm, a strong voice and at the show’s climax, “I Still Believe in Love” (Carole Bayer Sager/Marvin Hamlisch), he admits he’s been single for 20+ years, still clinging to hope that there’s someone just for him. Here, he’s simple, earnest and (perhaps because of this), the truth emerges: Adam misses attachment.
It makes sense, in retrospect, why Shapiro comes to the audience as opposed to the opposite; he’s seeking their love. He’s an engaging teddy bear who would not only break an audience’s heart by sharing his personal dating disappointments, but would also emerge as the type an audience can champion. There’s something sympathetic to a lovable loser with a heart of gold and, by allowing himself to be relatable, as opposed to eliciting advice, he’d let the audience do its job—root him on. In the future, I’d love to see Adam Shapiro’s Guide to Singledom.