Kenneth Gartman: When in Rome

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Kenneth Gartman

When in Rome

Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, October 24, 2018

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg for Cabaret Scenes

Kenneth Gartman

Kenneth Gartman considers himself a New Yorker after spending 18 years in the city, but the Texas boy kept peeking through as he shared stories of his travels for business and pleasure in his new show, When in Rome. Not just Rome, of course, but Paris, Mexico, Scotland, and a return to the U.S., all launched with a clever opening parody of a flight attendant’s instructions, with which the audience was all too familiar.

Gartman remains his own self during the course of the show—funny, warm, a lover of travel and good music.

This is evidenced in his ability to offer up a delicious “Come Fly with Me” without a hint of Frank Sinatra and a touching “La Vie en rose” without any sentimentality. He also shows off his capacity for languages, offering the latter in French, as well as a gorgeous “Solamente una Vez” (Augustin Lara) in Spanish with an off-hand ease.

Perhaps some of his connection to his material comes from the fact that he does his own musical arrangements, both complex and simple, depending on the mood he is trying to establish. Playing these arrangements with skill and sensitivity were Troy Fannin (music director/guitar), Marcel Hamel (bass), and Mike Shapiro (drums). The lack of a piano added a very different sound to the evening. Veteran Lennie Watts directed the show with the lightest of touches.

The camp highlight of the evening was a dazzlingly sung and performed mash-up of “Lady of Spain” and the “Habañera” (from Bizet’s Carmen), complete with the waving of a very rhythmic fan. A beautiful medley of “America the Beautiful,” “This Land Is Your Land,” and “God Bless America” was the emotional ending to this top-notch show.

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."