Kyle Dean Massey

| July 12, 2017

Kyle Dean Massey

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, July 11, 2017

Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Kyle Dean Massey

For an actor generally confined to speaking and singing from a script, the cabaret stage presents the opportunity to choose material freely, the focus of Kyle Dean Massey’s untitled new show. Massey reveled in the pleasure of presenting songs from his shows sung by others, as well as those he’s always wanted to publicly perform. In this latter category was the jazzed-up opener, “More” (Stephen Sondheim, from the 1990 film Dick Tracy). Massey immediately demonstrated a knack for phrasing and the capacity to belt fearsomely, also a feature of his second song, “Simple Joys” (Stephen Schwartz, Pippin). It was a relief to these ears when subsequent numbers were treated with more attention to nuance and a story arc. In doing so, the singer displayed an understanding of the value of vocal dynamics, most notably proved by two traditionally “big-voice” numbers: “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” (George Merrill/Shannon Rubicam) and Wicked’s “Defying Gravity.” In this softer, gentler approach, the lyrics popped with meaning.

Massey is an engaging performer, an all-American gay boy next door. There’s banter with Musical Director and pianist Benjamin Rauhala, in a frat boy kind of way (but such moments diminished the overall polish of the show). He’s open about his sexual orientation, with much of the narrative referencing it, including his role as the openly gay songwriter Kevin Bicks on the television show Nashville. From that show he performed “History of My Heart” (Chris Gelbuda/Kylie Sackly), a guitar-strong country ballad. Bringing his husband, Taylor Frey, to the stage, the two offered the “Theme Song” (Max Vernon) from Frey’s recent show The View UpStairs, with (unsurprisingly) arresting harmony.

While his voice is pleasant, there’s an underlying sharpness to Massey’s vocal tone. He has range and control, but is more a technician than an interpreter. Yet, his rendition of “To What You Said,” Leonard Bernstein’s setting of an unpublished Walt Whitman poem (part of the Songfest song cycle), was a sensitive paean to tolerance. Also nicely interpreted was the beautiful “It All Fades Away” (Jason Robert Brown, The Bridges of Madison County). For a a  final, encore number, Massey performed a number he did get to sing on Broadway–for over a year as cast replacement on Next to Normal —a rousing, yet relaxed “I’m Alive” (Tom Kitt/Brian Yorkey), featuring the effervescent guitar of Eric Davis. Also backing the vocalist were steady bass guitarist Alexandra Eckhardt and Jeff Roberts on drums, who had a tendency to overplay, loudly, on upbeat numbers.

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

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