John Davidson: The John Davidson Show

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John Davidson

The John Davidson Show

Birdland, NYC, September 9, 2019

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg for Cabaret Scenes

John Davidson

It can be very dangerous to revisit a performer you remember from his youth. It can be very dangerous for the performer as well.

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But, in John Davidson’s case, time has laid a very light hand upon him. His voice has hardly changed at all from when he was Walt Disney’s leading juvenile, and his timing and wit have definitely improved from the summer television series in which he shared the stage with George Carlin and Richard Pryor. Even his luxuriant hair is still present, albeit having turned a glowing white (he refers to himself as “an albino chia pet”).

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What has emerged after years of being a television game show host and regional musical comedy staple is a man who’s very comfortable in his own skin. On stage, as he reveals a goofy, slightly salty personality with a skill for charming the audience, a large dose of self-mockery, and a surprising ability as a songwriter. As a self-described troubadour, Davidson accompanied himself throughout the evening on a series of guitars, including one suitable for his composition, “Rhinestone Pink Guitar.”

The mix of candor and charm made the show seem personal to all of us. He offered up sincere stories about his relationship with his older daughter and their reconciliation, leading to a moving number about his emotions for her, “Jenny.

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” A tale of marital rapprochement was encapsulated in “I Still Wanna Be Your Superman,” though most of his references to his marriage were both humorous and self-deprecating.

In fact, it was comedy that definitely dominated the evening, with original songs that wryly asked, “Why Do Men Have Nipples?” and declared “70 Sucks!” There was quite a bit of political commentary as well, with the self-mocking “It’s Hard to Be Liberal” (Roy Zimmerman), which hardly obscured his pride in his strong political beliefs. He also offered up the theme song for his local-access television series, “What’s Next,” a clever patter number about the changing world. Few performers are as open and revealing as Davidson, who left us feeling we knew him far better than when we had walked in.

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."