Liz Rubino: Spring This Year

Liz Rubino

Spring This Year

Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, May 18, 2019

Reviewed by Randolph B. Eigenbrode for Cabaret Scenes

Liz Rubino
Photo: Maryann Lopinto

Early in her show, Liz Rubino declares that besides being a performer, she’s also a teacher. indeed, it shows.

This offering, detailing last year’s ups and downs, is skillfully crafted both in performance and structure.  Beginning with “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” (Fran Landesman/Tommy Wolf), Rubino flaunts her ability to find honest humor.
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Whether in “Upside Down” (AJ Croce), which used a smile to mask disappointment, or the patter-heavy (but amusing) “Somebody’s Watching Me” (Rockwell), she finds just the right combination of irony, screwball and deadpan to keep a show like this from dissolving into a maudlin mess. Very few performers, particularly young ones, seem to be proficient in this area.

In fact, there is a sage-like quality to Rubino that pervades her performance and her interpretation dynamic. “Swim” (Jack Mannequin) and “Carousel” (Jacques Brel/Mort Shuman/Eric Blau) both seemed to bubble with a sharing-the-gospel delivery, much like a lecture-hall professor expounding. Her voice is simple and unadorned; she never oversings.
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The arrangements, by MD Robert Bergner, never overpower. And when the patter teeters on over-share, Rubino thankfully keeps the audience wrapped around her finger, aptly infusing wit and whimsy.

Even with such strong skill, this showcase never quite comes to full boil. Perhaps it’s the academic choices—blocking, song selection and order, patter construction, etc.— that bring an aloof air to the piece, particularly when delivering such a personal narrative. Rubino allows for little to no messiness, opting instead for what’s tidy and refined. Perhaps it’s the teacher in her?

Still, she shows promise with “Room to Breathe” (Michele Brourman/Sheilah Rae) which steadily built to an impressive climax. She finally employed some chesty resonance, giving the song a satisfying confidence. And because of the belt-like approach, Rubino’s performance was given an unexpected vulnerability that culminated with a genuine exhale. It is here that she was most alive.

There is no doubt of her technical aptitude but, in future showings, Rubino must leave the teacher’s desk to allow her performances to bubble with authenticity.

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.