Mischa Kischkum: #OriginalMisch: Four Night Stand

Mischa Kischkum

#OriginalMisch: Four Night Stand

Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, May 4, 2019 

Reviewed by Randolph B. Eigenbrode for Cabaret Scenes

Mischa Kischkum

Mischa Kischkum may be old enough to have children in college, but he maintains quite the juvenile charm. Breaking into the NYC cabaret scene last year with a fresh collection of forgotten gems (and earning a MAC nom for Best Debut along the way), Kischkum allows his youthful energy to push the boundaries of what contemporary cabaret can be. In this new offering, he pushes even further with a most unexpected dynamic.

A democratic collective?

Here, the audience becomes part of the action as Kischkum records each of his four shows. The audience votes (via ballots on the tables) for which selections should make his upcoming live album. Each performance includes different set lists and different guests, making the live experience unique for repeat attendees. Add in a singalong for the audience and invitations for them to live stream/photo-document this show, and it’s clear that this isn’t your Grandma’s cabaret night.

Kischkum sings pleasantly, recalling a church choir leader, although his interpretations don’t often jump off the page, particularly when he’s stuck behind a keyboard, self-accompanying and relying heavily on sheet music.

It’s as if he wants his audience to focus on the songs themselves, all of which he wrote or co-wrote, instead of the talent that brings the pieces to life. 

The songwriting resonates most deftly when Kischkum’s offbeat sensibility, brimming with intellectual bite, is the centerpiece. “Chatty Cathy,” an ode to the friskiest cat, as well as the rapped “Be a Stand Man” (written with Jason Ellis), lauding men who wear pearl-necklaces, both intrigue in their unconventionality.

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“Take Down the Two-Party System” defiantly showcases his political opinions. 

Yet it’s the accompanying talent that seems to engage more than the star. Dan Busa, whose puppy-dog eyes could charm even the most jaded, lends strong support on guitar and percussion as well as with a sweet voice. Broadway’s Robin Baxter, dripping with charisma, additionally finds a subtle, underplayed humor in the twang-tinged “Plenty of Time to Get my G.E.D.”

But Kischkum does deliver as performer. Late in the program, finally away from the keyboard, he stood simply for “The World That Will Be” (written with Andrew Ordover) and, in this economical simplicity, Kischkum for the first time is moved himself.

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His eyes get misty. His voice tightens. And the piece begins to shape with a quiet ebb and flow. (Superb.)

Kischkum’s material is crafted with such brevity that it’s easy to appreciate his idiosyncratic style. But without the songwriter as also the highlighted star, it’s hard to #Love this show.

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.