Alex Mohajer: On the Eve of 30

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Alex Mohajer

On the Eve of 30

Rockwell Table & Stage  Los Angeles, CA, March 12, 2015

Reviewed by Elliot Zwiebach for Cabaret Scenes

Alex-Mohajer-On-the-Eve-of -30-Cabaret-Scenes-Magazine_212Alex Mohajer is a dynamic force of nature.  When he sings, the room shakes with the propulsive power of his voice and the passion of his soul.  He sings with total control but without restraint, often starting his vocals from a point where most singers would end and building to an amazing crescendo song after song—all with an apparent ease that belies the effort.

A lawyer by day, Mohajer lets go at night with an energy that might be gavelled down in a courtroom for lack of decorum. But, in a cabaret setting, the only pounding is the sound of the audience clapping its hands together enthusiastically, particularly on this night at this show—his solo cabaret debut—which took place the evening before Mohajer turned 30.  It was truly an evening of love on both sides of the footlights.

Mohajer has an easy, affable stage presence that makes him instantly likeable.  Though he announced it would be a night when he “did the divas,” there was never a sense of showing off for the sake of grandstanding—only his natural penchant for strong, driving vocals in a variety of genres.

The most touching and quiet moment of the evening came early on, when he used a runway from the stage to move to the center of the packed room to thank his mother by singing a sweet, emotional version of “Wind Beneath My Wings” (Larry Henley/Jeff Silbar) as she rocked back and forth with maternal pride.

Standouts included: his performance of “Summertime” (George Gershwin/DuBose Heyward), which started out simply and sweetly before he unleashed his full vocal power; a smooth, resonant, very solid “Bring Him Home” (Claude-Michel Schönberg/Alain Boublil/Herbert Kretzmer) that ended with a piercingly tender high note; and an emotional, show-stopping “Home” from The Wiz.

Making even the simplest songs sound like power ballads, Mohajer was outstanding on a mashup that combined a lyric-caressing version of “I Will Always Love You” (Dolly Parton) with a dynamic take on “”Kissing You” (Des’Ree/Tim Atack) that was effectively enhanced by the saxophone accompaniment of Wes Smith.

Along the way there was a tender, moody take on “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)” (Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer), a flowing mashup of “Dancing on My Own” (Robyn and Patrick Berger) with “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” (George Merrill/Shannon Rubicam)— featuring strong vocals from his three backup singers  (Katherine Washington, Vassiliki Elwood and AJ Retland), and a rousing closer, “Like a Prayer” (Madonna/Pat Leonard), that had several members of the audience literally jumping out of their seats and dancing to the music.

At one point Mohajer invited Rockwell’s executive producer, Kate Pazakis, to join him onstage for a strong, belting duet on “Get Happy” (Arlen/Ted Koehler) and “Happy Days Are Here Again” (Milton Ager/Jack Yellen), with Mohajer taking the Garland part and Pazakis the Streisand part and both blowing the roof off the place.

Having heard Mohajer perform several times over the past few years, he seems to have contemporized his sound to add more runs and melismas in place of a more straightforward delivery.  While the audience didn’t seem to mind—wildly cheering each run—some purists were slightly disappointed with the change—the only quibble in an otherwise sterling evening.

The show was directed by Daniel Segura, with Clifford Bell as contributing director and Brad Hooks on piano as musical director.  Besides Hooks and Smith, there were five other musicians who took the stage and left it as needed: Adam Alessi (drums); Max Mueller (cello); Emily Rosenfield (bass); Luke Santonastas (violin); and Will Yanez (guitar).

Elliot Zwiebach

Elliot Zwiebach loves the music of The Great American Songbook and classic Broadway, with a special affinity for Rodgers and Hammerstein. He's been a professional writer for 45 years and a cabaret reviewer for five. Based in Los Angeles, Zwiebach has been exposed to some of the most talented performers in cabaret—the famous and the not-so-famous—and enjoys it all. Reviewing cabaret has even pushed him into doing some singing of his own — a very fun and liberating experience that gives him a connection with the performers he reviews.