Damon J. Bolling: Taking the Wheel

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Damon J. Bolling

Taking the Wheel

Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Scottsdale, AZ, August 13, 2022

Reviewed by Nathaniel Jones

Damon J. Bolling

I attended the closing performance of Damon J. Bolling’s solo cabaret Taking the Wheel, performed on Stage 2 at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. It was one of two cabaret shows produced by the United Colours of Arizona Theatre (UCAT) as part of its Summer of Love series. The intimate setting of Stage 2 was more than fitting as the crowd flowed in. Open seating allowed for this reviewer to find himself dead center, ready to embark on a journey piloted by the one and only Damon J. Bolling. A masterful performer with an enthralling voice, Bolling is a staple in the Arizona theater community. The three-time AriZoni Award winner brought energy and versatility to his performance that is reflected in his ease on the cabaret stage, and also moved the audience with his vulnerable and awe-inspiring story.

Bolling took the stage with a refreshing energy, opening the show with “Taking the Wheel” from It’s Only Life. His ability to wow a crowd was immediately apparent. As if having family and friends in the audience wasn’t enough, his opener sent the crowd roaring. After he greeted the now-invested audience, Bolling solidified his grip on us by crooning “Grateful,” also from It’s Only Life, and set the tone of what the patrons had in store.

Throughout Bolling’s performance, he did an excellent job in tying his songs to the emotions charged in each story he told. However, it was both his charisma and his way of connecting with the entire audience that made Bolling a magnificent performer. His story of his childhood, standing on a concrete slab in his back yard that he called a stage and singing to his crowd (his fence), as well as growing up and performing in high school, was stirring and blended marvelously with “The Kid Inside” from Is There Life After High School. A moving rendition of “This Woman’s Work” by Maxwell was a beautiful tribute to his mother and had the crowd in tears.

Bolling captivated with his beautiful stories about New York.

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From loves come and gone to auditions and career changes, he pulled together memories of his time living in the city with “Angels Punks and Raging Queens” (Elegies for Angels, Punks, and Raging Queens), “I Will Be Loved Tonight” (I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change), and “Another Hundred People” (Company). Tears were apparent. Messages of acceptance and letting go were given their palpable fill of emotions with the heartache expressed in Jason Robert Brown’s “Letting You Go.” Tears of joy and acceptance followed with Bolling’s beautiful message to his husband as he sang “My Funny Valentine” from Babes in Arms along with an emotionally exposed “I’m Not Afraid of Anything” from Songs for a New World. The showstopper however was a vocally astounding performance of “Here’s Where I Stand” from Camp. To end the show, Bolling brought the audience to its feet with a powerful performance of “The Glory of Love” by Peter Cetera and kept them there with his encore, “Louder Than Words” from Tick, Tick… BOOM!.

Overall, Damon J. Bolling’s performance was phenomenal. He pulled together his talents and his beautiful life and created a story powerful enough to surpass any need for more than a stage and a piano. Bolling is enough of a force on his own, and the audience at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts Stage 2 was more than privileged to bear witness.