Michael Kirk Lane: Just Because

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Michael Kirk Lane

Just Because

Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, August 19, 2019

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg for Cabaret Scenes

Michael Kirk Lane

Michael Kirk Lane had nothing special to do this summer, so he decided to create a new cabaret show, Just Because. And when he takes the stage, it is a guaranteed shot of adrenalin and a promise of pure entertainment. The “laughter through tears” moments were a pleasant bonus. The fact that he was working with his long-time team of director Jay Rogers and music director William TN Hall (with whom he has several snarky exchanges) added a comfortable sheen to the program.

Some of the highlights of the diverse song list were “Spread a Little Sunshine,” delivered with echoes of the original Fosse choreography; the very darkly humored “Central Park in Spring” (co-written by Hall and Patrick Gallagher); and the highly appropriate “I Love Play Rehearsal” (Joe Iconis). “I’m All Alone” slid into comic insanity when the star was joined by his pianist, as well as members of Those Girls and Mama’s Boys chiming in from their tables. He also made a dream come true when he was joined on stage by Sidney Myer for a very strange duet on “Birdhouse in Your Soul” (John Flansburgh and John Linnell).

But the emotional center of the show was Lane’s tribute to his grandmother, who passed on her love for the Great American Songbook, often filtered via the Lawrence Welk Show, to him. “Pennies from Heaven,” complete with tap dancing coins, was delivered with complete sincerity. His recollections of his beloved relative’s wake were both moving and hysterical when he explained how “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” came to be played—in August. Then there was “Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral,” which he sang as he had at her funeral with purity and deep feeling while showcasing his sweet tenor. “Not Perfect” (Tim Michin) and “Yakko’s Universe” (Rand Rogel) brought the show to a close with a solid world-view that refuted the idea that Lane had created the program “just because.”

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."