Craig Rubano: Take the Moment

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Craig Rubano

Take the Moment

Laurie Beechman Theatre, NYC, March 15, 2024

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg

Craig Rubano
Photo: Gene Reed

The art of being still is a rare art, especially in the intimate confines of a cabaret show, Craig Rubano excels at it. He can reach a big emotional climax when it’s required, but he is also a quiet, gentle soul who charms the audience with his sensitivity, his compassion, and his sincerity. From the moment he began to sing “Take the Moment” (Stephen Sondheim/Richard Rodgers) from deep in the room of the Laurie Beechman Theatre, his subtle, fine baritone voice coming from the darkness urged the audience forward. That was just the first of many magic moments in his evening that took its name from that song title. It was, surprisingly, his first full show in 10 years.

Rubano had quite an interesting life story to share. He began with his childhood in South America and demonstrated his bilingual capability with a passionate rendition of “The Impossible Dream (The Quest)” (Mitch Leigh/Joe Darion: English lyrics; Carlos Viniegrain: Spanish lyrics) sung in both languages. He turned to his time at Yale with “Bulldog/Bingo, That’s the Lingo” written by his fellow alumni Cole Porter. IN addition to that cheer, he offered two more numbers by Porter: the romantic “Where Have You Been? and the bombastic “Red, Hot and Blue.” Then he told of his venture into musical theater, despite some resistance, with Sondheim’s “Everybody Says Don’t.” That led into his story of landing the role of Marius in Les Misérables, a role he performed for nearly 800 performances. The emotional highlight of the evening followed: his linking of “The Cafe Song”/“Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” from that score (Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alan Boubil & Jean-Marc Natel: French lyrics; Herbert Kretzmer: English lyrics) with “I’ve Heard It All Before”/“Meditation II” (from Shenandoah, Gary Geld & Peter Udell) and “We Can Be Kind” (David Friedman), an essay on the tragedy of war and the hope for kinder people.

His showed playful side in a musical salute to goats (he raises them) with the delightful folk song “Bill Grogan’s Goat,” followed by “Sweet Zoo” (Jeffrey D. Harris). He delivered both with immense, unforced charm. Then came the pure joy of “Wick” (Lucy Simon/Marsha Norman). Much of the latter part of the evening dealt with his spirituality (he is a Unitarian minister) and his religious journey, both on full display in his exploration of the theme of rebirth in the lyrics of “Wick.” He also celebrated his own truth with “I Am What I Am” (Jerry Herman). The show climaxed on a very positive note as he blended “Before the Parade Passes By” (Herman) with a reprise of “Take the Moment.” The show was under the direction of Jeff Harnar, with the fine musical direction by pianist Beth Ertz. The connection between her and Rubano was on full display throughout. Bassist Marc Schmied made a strong contribution. We can only hope that Rubano won’t stay away from the cabaret world for so long; his positivity, and yes, his stillness, are much needed.

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."