Derek Klena

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Derek Klena

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, March 17, 2019

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg for Cabaret Scenes

Derek Klena

In his eight years in New York City, Derek Klena has built up an impressive résumé, with major roles in the off-Broadway revival of Carrie, as well as in Dogfight, Wicked, The Bridges of Madison County, Anastasia The Musical, and the upcoming Jagged Little Pill. Amid all that, he found time to marry his college sweetheart (he dedicated a moving medley of “Your Song” and “She’s Got a Way” to her), much to the evident disappointment of his legion of young fans who cheered him on during his life-reviewing cabaret show at Feinstein’s/54 Below.

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Offering up casual elegance in a light gray suit and black t-shirt, Klena possessed a warm and surprisingly goofy stage presence that could easily shift to intense when his material required it.

The song list was mostly made up of selections from shows he has appeared in—all with a varying degree of contemporary sound—along with a mix of pop/rock tunes (including a medley of Justin Bieber’s numbers) tossed in. Highlights included “Goodbye” (Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman) and “Dancing Through Life” (Stephen Schwartz). It would be interesting to hear him tackle some standards.

Throughout, he displayed a strong tenor, which smoothly shifted to falsetto on occasion, and excellent diction. His one foray into comedy, a clever parody number about Disney princes titled “A Prince in Their World” with special lyrics by the singer and his music director, Benjamin Rauhala, demonstrated a sure way with witty material. There was also an amusing trip into family nostalgia as Klena shared a video of his first taste of celebrity on America’s Most Talented Kids. In addition to Rauhala on piano, he received excellent support from Eric Davis on guitar.

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Hopefully, Klena will break his habit of clutching the microphone and stand with two hands, which was rather distracting and unnecessary given the power of his voice. Otherwise, he is a welcome addition to the cabaret world and maturity should bring more polish to his already excellent skills.

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."