Bob Diamond: The Game of Life

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Bob Diamond

The Game of Life

Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, October 22, 2019

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg for Cabaret Scenes

Bob Diamond

The Game of Life, originally known as The Checkered Game of Life, was introduced to America by Milton Bradley in 1860, it was the first popular U.S. parlor game. Of course, it’s been modernized over the decades, to reflect traditional middle-class experiences. Bob Diamond has used it for the background of his delightful new show; with assistance from director Gretchen Reinhagen, music director Matthew Martin Ward, and bassist Matt Scharfglass, he took us on the journey of his own life.

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With his musical voice (whether singing or speaking) and fine enunciation, his alternating sly and whimsical humor, and his joy in performing, Diamond is the complete cabaret artist.

With his second number, “Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries,” the singer charmed the audience, drawing them in with a mix of irony, self-mockery, and light accusations. His often irreverent asides about the activity cards of the game were a great balance for the more emotional moments (his take on the instruction to “name a new fruit” is classic). His delivery of a 1930s novelty song, “Sam, You Made the Pants Too Long” (with lyrics by comic star Milton Berle with Fred Whitehouse and music by Victor Young), it was based on an earlier song “Lawd You Made the Night Too Long” (lyrics by Sam M. Lewis), which Diamond also shared, was a model of burlesque timing.

Throughout the show, there was a clever choice of obscure tunes from well-known writers: “Larger than Life” from Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens’ My Favorite Year (the title tune was also featured effectively) and “Why Him?” from Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane’s Carmelina were real gems expressively delivered. The end of romance was encapsulated in the brilliant “The Lady Down the Hall” (Annie Dinerman) and in the cabaret standard “Guess Who I Saw Today,” made fresh by Diamond’s assured acting skills.

Fine medleys that blended songs seamlessly were also presented: “Ev’rybody Loves You”/“Sleepy Man,” and “Whistling Away the Dark”/“One More Walk Around the Garden” (both based on arrangements by Rick Jensen) were dramatically satisfying. Mention must be made of the idiosyncratic phrasing on “The Very Thought of You” that again made a classic seem fresh.

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Near the show’s closing, Diamond proclaimed, “I cannot wait until the next game night!” The audience could not have agreed more.

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."