Ethan Slater

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Ethan Slater

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, August 2, 2019

Reviewed by Chris Struck for Cabaret Scenes

Ethan Slater

Ethan Slater’s show at Feinstein’s/54 Below was truly unexpected, which is a treat of cabaret—finding something slightly different. Typically, Broadway notables stick to a set list of classics, most often telling the story of their own lives chronologically. On occasion, they will throw in an original.  Slater, on the other hand, flipped the script, sticking mainly to his own songs, and occasionally, he chose a song by another lyricist/composer.
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In essence, his work shines with potential. While the ideas behind the stories that set up his songs may need work to really stand out, the songs themselves capture real emotions in a unique way.

My favorite song of the evening was “Richmond Rewrites.” The story behind the song is developing, but essentially there are two songwriting brothers. Their ages and desires seem a little muddled, but one brother steals the content of the other brother’s diary to write the song about Richmond.
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The song goes something like, “I met a girl in Richmond, and I told her about prior evening’s fire” and it’s catchy and hooks you on the last line of the chorus—“these are my Richmond rewrites.” It’s well written and it showcases a lot of what made Slater’s originals easy to connect with: simple events, simple ambition, and desire to communicate. Most of his material comes from an in-progress musical called The Edge of the World. My favorite of these was the opening number, “Alaska,” which had a touch of “Oklahoma!” with the line, “Alaska, here we come.” It was uplifting, especially given that his description of the story seemed to paint the character’s outlook as bleak.

Fans of Slater were especially ecstatic for a quartet of songs that he interspersed throughout his set. The two that drew most excitement were “Happiness” (Clark Gesner) from You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and “Simple Sponge” (Brendon Urie) from his Tony-nominated performance in SpongeBob Squarepants. It was also clear from Slater’s ease of dropping into character that he has dedicated a lot of time to honing them. Of the two, “Simple Sponge” seemed to resonate best when he sang, “There is more to me than just my name.”

As he spent most of the night proving, Slater is a well-rounded and capable performer, who earned a Broadway leading role and can write songs and strum the guitar on his emotionally engaging material.

Aiding him on this night were Ari Brand (vocals), Mike Dobson (drums), and Marco Paguia (keys).

Chris Struck

Chris Struck's debut novel, Kennig and Gold, is due to be officially published in June 2019. He's written reviews for Cabaret Scenes since August of 2017. For more information about the writer, see