Joshua Hinck & Aili Venho: Losing My Mind: A Sondheim Disco Fever Dream

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Joshua Hinck and Aili Venho

Losing My Mind: A Sondheim Disco Fever Dream

The Green Room 42, NYC, August 19, 2018

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg for Cabaret Scenes

Joshua Hinck & Aili Venho

In the category of weird events taking place in traditional cabaret rooms, Losing My Mind: A Sondheim Disco Fever Dream may be right there at the top, a mix of tacky fun, inventive musical mashing, and moments of brilliance. At various points the evening evoked memories of The Ethel Merman Disco Album; The Pet Shop Boys and Liza; Donny and Marie’s 1970s television show; Dorothy Loudon (who first did the mix of “Losing My Mind” and “You Could Drive a Person Crazy,” though not, admittedly, as a conga); and the bizarre single version of “The Tale of Sweeney Todd” with inappropriate sound effects.

This program, conceived by Joshua Hinck, and featuring him and Aili Venho, was a collision of seemingly every melody Stephen Sondheim composed, sometimes with screwy logic—“There Won’t Be Trumpets” merges into “That Will Show Him” (sung by Hinck without pronoun changes sending us into the world of camp) before resolving into “Unworthy of Your Love”—to strong effect, and sometimes with no logic at all. No one can explain the connection of “Lovely” to “By the Sea.” The technical support team proved themselves up to the challenge of “Color and Light” where the stage illumination shifted with each hue mentioned, not to forget the use of the inevitable mirror ball.

In the middle of this often-entertaining chaos, Venho took center stage and offered a breathtaking “The Miller’s Son,” using her powerhouse of a voice to build to a declaration of strength, not unlike the disco classic “I Will Survive.” Hinck’s voice isn’t as powerful, but he has a pixyish sense of humor and displayed some major foot (and hip) work.

In support of the two was a musical team larger than that of many a current Broadway musical—an 11-piece orchestra led by Scott Wasserman, who also created the dazzling, often witty and sometime overwhelming musical arrangements—along with three talented backup singers: Hansel Tan, Allison Mickelson, and Dion Millington.

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."