Danny K. Bernstein: Danny Has Friends

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Danny K. Bernstein

Danny Has Friends

The Green Room 42, NYC, March 23, 2018

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg for Cabaret Scenes

Danny K. Bernstein

Danny K. Bernstein indeed has some talented and attractive friends. He also has some major talent as a theater songwriter. Despite nagging laryngitis, he played charming host and guide through selections from three of his musicals and an assortment of individual songs. His style is irreverent, witty, playful, and occasionally bawdy (one lyric prompted him to apologize to his in-attendance parents), and then things turn and he can both thrill and devastate the heart.

His songs are contemporary in sound and subject matter, but he has obviously done his homework in learning how a show song (as opposed to a pop song) works to define character, setting, and story. For instance, his female trio “Dear Aphrodite” (delivered by Ana Marco, Ariella Serur, and Bettina Bresnan), which concerns three coeds thrilled at the sight of their new professor, is absolutely original in these modern women’s reactions while also harking back to such standards as “Sing for Your Supper” and “Three Little Maids from School Are We.” The shadows of history give his new work resonance.

“Jews on Christmas” (performed by the very non-Jewish Katy Geraghty and Dillon McPherson) is a delightful and offbeat take on the traditional holiday song, one that really swings with sassy humor.

One could easily imagine this showing up on Bette Midler or Barry Manilow’s next album. On the other hand, “Something Like a Fairy Tale” (delivered with heart by Brianne Wylie and Gabe Gibbs) is simple and direct and very touching.

Much of Bernstein’s work on display here deals with unrequited romance (often crossing with a gay culture bitter zing).

“I’m Glad You Both Are Happy,” as delivered with acid by Patrick Reilly, is the hysterical ultimate in a rejected lover’s revenge, while “Just This Once,” swung by Chris Murphy, is the basic won’t-take-no-for-an-answer invitation to a one-night stand. (This is the number the songwriter feared would offend his folks).

Is there a flaw in his work? Well, as McPherson said before launching into “Say Yes,” “This song has more words than any song I’ve ever sung!” Bernstein has yet to learn that sometimes less is indeed more, and the audience can only absorb so many words and thoughts at a time. But, when he offers up the emotional pow of Bobby Conte Thornton delivering “Wings,” all can easily be forgiven.

Bernstein played piano throughout the evening, with other instrumental contributions by Jessie Linden, Will Shishmanian, and Jeff Cox (who also provided some of the arrangements).

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."