Bob Wetzel & Craig Becker: A Fine Bromance

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Bob Wetzel and Craig Becker

A Fine Bromance

The Kranzberg Center, St. Louis, MO, July 13, 2018

Reviewed by Chuck Lavazzi for Cabaret Scenes

Bob Wetzel (L) & Craig Becker

“What do you say, old friend, are we or are we unique?” So runs the lyric of Stephen Sondheim’s “Old Friends” (Merrily We Roll Along), the song that, in combination with Paul Simon’s “Old Friends,” served as the opening number of A Fine Bromance, the new show by Bob Wetzel and Craig Becker presented by Mariposa Artists. 

It was a perfect choice because, while their decades-long friendship may not be unique, it is, at least, rare. And it informed every minute of this unfailingly charming evening.

That opening number was just a bit deceptive in that it began with the two singers seated with their backs to each other, dimly lit, as they wistfully sang Simon’s melancholy lines (“Old friends, winter companions, the old men/Lost in their overcoats, waiting for the sun”). But then they turned face to face, the lights brightened and the tempo quickened. They smiled as if reconnecting for the first time in years and launched into a breezy run through of the Sondheim. That set a celebratory tone the show maintained to the end, with just the right number of ballads for contrast.

Indeed, under the knowing direction of Lina Koutrakos, a cabaret legend in her own right, Wetzel and Becker assembled an exceptionally well-balanced mix of show tunes old and new, some Great American Songbook standards, and even pop classics like James Taylor’s “Secret o’ Life,” a thoughtful performance of which brought the show to a close. Each selection was carefully tailored to the strengths of its respective performer by the evening’s music director and pianist, the infallibly creative Rick Jensen. The result was an example of what a well-turned-out cabaret evening should be.

The singers provided a nice balance of performing styles as well. Wetzel was the “old smoothie” of the duo, delivering standards like “Moonlight in Vermont” with suave assurance. Becker, in contrast, proved a dab hand at lyric-heavy comedy numbers like John Kander and Fred Ebb’s “Coffee in a Cardboard Cup” (70, Girls, 70) and Richard Maltby Jr. and David Shire’s trenchant commentary on breaking up, “You Want to be My Friend?” (used in the revue, Closer Than Ever). When they sang together, whether on self-deprecatingly funny numbers like Jerry Herman’s “Elegance” (Hello, Dolly!) or on easy-going standards like Simon’s “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy),” they had the cozy camaraderie that comes from long acquaintance.

In fact, that lifelong friendship, during which Wetzel and Becker have managed to combine successful careers in the business world with after-hours lives as actors and singers, was the main theme of A Fine Bromance. The biographical details sprinkled throughout the show were just substantial enough to provide a narrative thread without ever deteriorating into the cabaret equivalent of home movies.

Their stories also allowed them to personalize their songs and make the lyrics their own. Becker preceded his high-wattage performance of Sondheim’s “Everybody Says Don’t,” for example, by talking about how, as a young man, he decided to take a life path different than the one he was expected to follow. It turned a song about challenging authority into a kind of personal declaration of independence. In the same vein, Wetzel put a personal spin on his rendition of “Luck Be a Lady” by talking about how important luck has been in his life.

A Fine Bromance had only one performance here in St. Louis, but New York cabaret-lovers will be able to see it at Don’t Tell Mama on September 30; visit their web site at for more information. For upcoming Mariposa Artists shows, visit their Facebook page.

Chuck Lavazzi

Chuck Lavazzi is the producer for the arts calendars and senior performing arts critic at 88.1 KDHX, the host of The Cabaret Project’s monthly open mic night, and entirely to blame for the Stage Left blog at He’s a member of the Music Critics Association of North America and the St. Louis Theater Circle. Chuck has been an actor, sound designer, and occasional director since roughly the Bronze Age. He has presented his cabaret show Just a Song at Twilight: the Golden Age of Vaudeville, at the Missouri History Museum and the Kranzberg Center.