Sam Gravitte: Songs That Raised Me

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Sam Gravitte

Songs That Raised Me

Birdland, NYC, March 7, 2022

By Bart Greenberg

Sam Gravitte

Sam Gravitte made his solo cabaret debut at Birdland showing off an attractive voice, an impressive dramatic range, and a very handsome appearance. Telling tales of growing up in a theatrical family—parents/Broadway stars Debbie and Beau Gravitte were in attendance, as was Sam’s twin sister—he eagerly paid tribute to them as both parents and performers. He also established himself as an distinctive performer of some very surprising material. If his nerves and emotions occasionally betrayed themselves, and a director might have helped avoid the unnecessary “costume” change, it was still a fine and very promising start.

Kicking off with a smoothly crooned “Come Fly with Me,” he was soon proving his versatility by accompanying himself on electric guitar on an unexpected but effective “I Could Have Danced All Night.” Sticking to the instrument, he channeled his inner Elvis for “Come When I Call.” Then he switched gears yet again using his lower range on a lovely rendering of an Appalachian folk song entitled “Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies.” He wrapped up the first half of his program by bringing on his guest, Solea Pfeiffer, possessor of a gorgeous soprano, to duet on “Say It Somehow” from The Light in the Piazza, a tribute to his dad who was in the original Broadway company.

After a musical interlude to cover Gravitte’s costume change (a solo spot for Pfeiffer might have been less disruptive), the star returned to offer a series of very exciting performances that not only showed off both his vocal agility and his fine dramatic abilities as well. Featured were a finely performed “Finishing the Hat” along with a tribute to his mom’s Tony winning turn in Jerome Robbins’s Broadway with “Mr. Monotony.” But the highlight was the world premiere of a song cycle by the singer’s music director, Jake Landau, entitled The Coin Toss. The central character debates with himself whether to pursue a romantic possibility or let it go. Witty and perceptive (“So I’ll see you after therapy”), this clearly post-Sondheim work seemed like a slight but very promising effort by the composer as well as a great vehicle for the singer/actor.

Landau provided fine musical support throughout at the piano, with Ravi Campbell on guitar, Kanoa Mendenhall on bass, and Zach Mullings on drums all contributing to the fun. Gravitte’s fine work on the guitar, including his encore—a song he had composed himself, “Holy Grail,” certainly demonstrated what an impressive multi-talent he is becoming.

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."