Jason Graae: Graaetest Hits

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Jason Graae

Graaetest Hits

Catalina Bar and Jazz Club, Hollywood, CA, June 8, 2016

jason-Graae-Cabaret-Scenes-Magazine_212Jason Graae is a consummate performer whose name on a marquee guarantees total entertainment.

In his latest cabaret incarnation, Graae used a play on his name to recount the “graaetest” hits from his career so far in song and story — demonstrating repeatedly his ability to toss a line away and bring down the house with laughter, to break everyone’s heart with his solid, steady lyric tenor, and to deliver the punch in several pieces of very funny material.

One of the highlights of the evening was his version of “Three Coins in the Fountain” (Jule Styne/Sammy Cahn) — not the pop version of the song most folks know, but the version from Forever Plaid, and not even quite that version. Recreating just his part of the singing quartet in that show, Graae sang the harmony line, shut his mouth and gestured when someone else (not on this particular stage) sang a few lines, moved rhythmically as if surrounded by the other three Plaids, and ended on an oddly hanging note without the necessary blendship of the other three vocal parts.  It was a brilliant piece of showmanship, perfectly done.

Other funny moments included: his “Just a Gigolo” with a very faux French accent that became more guttural and less intelligible as the song progressed, adding an oboe instrumental mid-song; “To Excess” (Christopher Dimond/Michael Koomin), an unbelievably funny piece of special material whose music is sweet but whose lyrics belie a very unhinged person; and “The Slasher Song” (Marc Cherry/John Augustine), a personal tour de force by Graae singing bloody parodies of Broadway standards (e.g., “Try to Dismember.” “Carve Up a Happy Face” and “I Killed the Son in the Morning and the Mom at Night”).

But when Graae got serious with “She Touched Me” (Milton Schafer/Ira Levin, from Drat! The Cat) or “What More Can I Say?” (William Finn, Falsettos) or “I Don’t Want to Know” (Jerry Herman, Dear World), he was heartfelt and very moving and absolutely superb.  And his “I Am What I Am” (Herman) — sung after a touching, albeit hilarious, story of coming out to his mother — was strong and defiant in its power.

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Reflecting on his time doing voice-overs as Lucky the Leprechaun in ads for Lucky Charms, Graae started with an up-tempo take on “How Lucky Can You Get?” (Kander and Ebb) — with Musical Director John Boswell singing the “vo-de-o-dos” — till he mentioned getting fired from the gig, after which his delivery got angrier and more deliberate and, ultimately, cathartic as he destroyed a box of the cereal.

Graae closed the show with one of his signature numbers, “Blow Me a Kiss” (Richard Kraft/David Goldsmith), in which the pauses in delivery make all the difference — “Blow me (breath) a kiss/Suck me (breath) in with your charm/Sit on this (breath) while I get a chair/Eat me (breath) out of house and home … etc.).

The show was produced by Chris Isaacson Presents. Opening for Graae in a three-song set was Jenna Lee Rosen, a spectacular 17-year-old singer/actress who said she was eight days away from her high school graduation.

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She won over the crowd immediately with a full-throated, powerful “I Got Love” (Gary Geld/Peter Udell, from Purlie), a mesmerizing “Disneyland” (Marvin Hamlisch/Howard Ashman, from Smile) and a perky “More Than Just the Spare” (Robert Lopez/Kristen Anderson-Lopez, a song cut from the movie Frozen).

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.