Erik Ransom and Ilene Kristen: No Ransom to Be Paid

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Erik Ransom and Ilene Kristen

No Ransom to Be Paid

Pangea, NYC, July 31, 2017

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg for Cabaret Scenes

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It was traditional on the old nightclub circuit for two totally unrelated acts to share a stage for an evening—usually a lesser-known opener and a star turn. Well, for one night, Pangea brought this tradition back with two artists who have the barest of connections (and no shared stage time). It made for a very entertaining if overlong and slightly disconnected show.

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To get things going, the very clever singer/songwriter Erik Ransom offered up six of his songs from various projects, assisted by some of his friends. Three of the songs were from his work-in-progress More Than All the World, a tale of Edward II. These numbers are in the style of many musicals today: passionate, delivered at full emotional pitch, and with slightly over-stuffed lyrics. More playful and endearing was his specialty material for Hugh Hysell, “Type Cast,” in which the substantial performer complained of how his girth limited his being cast. Such unlikely rhymes as “laughed” and “Taft” and “heck” and “Shrek” show a playfulness worthy of E.Y. Harburg. Also delightful was “House of Chicken,” taken from Ransom’s film score for Happy Yummy Chicken: The Motion Picture, delivered by powerhouse Kate Hoover and Remy Germinario. Musical director Andy Peterson added to the fun of the set.

After a brief break, Broadway and soap star Ilene Kristen took the stage to celebrate her birthday.

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As to which birthday it was, she was slightly coy, but she did admit that she had appeared in the original cast of Grease directly across the street in a theater no longer there. Observing how packed the room was, she offered the observation that she hoped everyone had brought birth control. With that brassy comment, she was off and running, offering up a series of songs she had either written or collaborated on. Her work was most varied, from “Latin googaloo” to a Peggy Lee tribute to country western to straight-out rock, and yet all uniquely her. The dynamo explained the inspiration for each song—often a failed romance—with great humor as she danced around the tiny stage, playing rhythm instruments, and adding amusing chaos to such songs as “No Matter What” and “I’m Not Done with You Yet.”

Bart Greenberg

Bart Greenberg first discovered cabaret a few weeks after arriving in New York City by seeing Julie Wilson and William Roy performing Stephen Sondheim and Cole Porter outdoors at Rockefeller Center. It was instant love for both Ms. Wilson and the art form. Some years later, he was given the opportunity to create his own series of cabaret shows while working at Tower Records. "Any Wednesday" was born, a weekly half-hour performance by a singer promoting a new CD release. Ann Hampton Callaway launched the series. When Tower shut down, Bart was lucky to move the program across the street to Barnes & Noble, where it thrived under the generous support of the company. The series received both The MAC Board of Directors Award and The Bistro Award. Some of the performers who took part in "Any Wednesday" include Barbara Fasano and Eric Comstock, Tony Desare, Andrea Marcovicci, Carole Bufford, the Karens, Akers, Mason and Oberlin, and Julie Wilson. Privately, Greenberg is happily married to writer/photographer Mark Wallis, who as a performance artist in his native England gathered a major following as "I Am Cereal Killer."