Richard H. Blake: Music of My Life

Richard H. Blake

Music of My Life

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, June 18, 2018

Reviewed by Randolph B. Eigenbrode for Cabaret Scenes

Richard H. Blake

Many life stories are shared in Richard H. Blake’s cabaret debut. There’s the one about his beating out a certain Tony Award-winning Broadway mainstay actress when they competed on Star Search. There’s another regarding his choice to star in a Broadway musical instead of becoming a 1990s Mouseketeer. (More on that later.) And, with 15 Broadway shows to his credit, there’s plenty opportunity for dish.

Blake is a storyteller who possesses an engaging charm. Unfortunately, with a showcase that’s as slick as a patch of ice, there’s little else for an audience to connect with.

Indeed, he works hard throughout, almost imposing his talent upon the audience. There is no denying his pleasant voice or irresistible suaveness. He is so handsome, in fact, that he causes grown women to blare like squad car sirens during a high speed chase (much like one sitting at the table next to me.)

It’s just the overly scripted format, giving us endless tidbits in the patter, that seems to distract Blake from actual storytelling during the songs. Both “Written in the Stars” (Elton John/Tim Rice), sung with Joanna Alexis Jones, and “Almost Paradise” (Eric Carmen/Dean Pitchford), sung with Jennifer DiNoia, sounded great, but he opted for a stylized melodrama that robbed us of their emotional potential.

Blake reveals little vulnerability even when tackling subjects close to the heart. “Someone to Fall Back On” (Jason Robert Brown), dedicated to wife Teri DiGianfelice, was less lovable-loser confessional and more vocal showcase. He quipped, as the song ended, that it was “infinitely harder with [Teri] in the room,” revealing the disconnect that prevented us from fully sharing the moment.

Blake does come alive at times, particularly in a medley of ’90s teen pop songs rewritten about the gentleman who was the Mickey Mouse Club’s second choice.

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He turned down that show, opting instead to star in the notorious Broadway flop The Prince of Central Park, while the replacement went onto mainstream movie fame, including two Academy Award nominations and a Hollywood starlet wife.

Altering the lyrics to “Tearing Up My Heart” (Max Martin/Kristian Lundin), among others, Blake quietly layered in a cornucopia of conflicting feelings: bitterness, contentment, regret, joy, and more.

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The musically simple selections, albeit catchy, perfectly allowed Blake a canvas to simultaneously re-experience an almost devastating incident as well as to skewer it. For a brief moment, we got a glimpse of a fuller and more authentic person.

Appearing in 15 Broadway shows supposedly affords one the cachet to present a “bio show.

” Yet, it’s getting to know the life behind a showbiz smile (and jawline) that allows a performer to fully endear an audience. And that, combined with his charisma, could plant the seeds to a lifetime of solo shows for Blake.

Randolph B. Eigenbrode

Randolph is the newest addition to the writing staff at Cabaret Scenes. He is a cabaret teacher, previously teaching with legend Erv Raible, and his students have gone on to success in the field with sold-out shows and many awards. He is also a director and that, combined with a knowledge of the art form and techniques that cabaret performing encompasses, makes him love reviewing NYC’s cabaret scene. When not catching the Big Apple’s crazy talent, Randolph loves 1970s variety shows, mall Chinese food, Meryl Streep films and a good cold glass of pinot grigio.