Francis Garner: Over the Hill: Dating Gay Over 30

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Francis Garner

Over the Hill: Dating Gay Over 30

Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, May 31, 2024

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg

Francis Garner

In his New York City cabaret debut, Francis Garner of Cape Cod brought his powerful baritone and his arresting personality to Don’t Tell Mama timed to kick off Pride Month. His subject matter of frustrating gay romances isn’t particularly new, but he brought his sharp-edged personality and some offbeat song choices to make this distinctly his own show. Working closely with his music director and longtime collaborator Andy Lantz, he kicked off the evening with a blend of “7 Inches” (Kate Vargas) and “Freaks Like Me” (Daphne Willis) that was wonderfully creepy and marvelously theatrical as he used the entire stage.

Garner brought new life to the too-often performed “Being Alive” (Steven Sondheim). He found new depths in it, performing it as a very sad song of a frightened man rather than as the celebratory tale it usually is, and it fit very well into his tale of starting his dating life quite late and with great hesitation. He detailed his early forays into gay bars with specific and wryly humorous tales and songs such as “Queer Things” (Ruth Wallis) and the highly seductive “Your Heart Is as Black as Night” (Melody Gardot). He also included excellent choreography, wigs, and props to bring to life those people he encountered with well-thought-out theatricality.

Confessing his weakness for Brazilian men, Garner offered two songs in smooth Portuguese: the classic “The Girl from Ipanema” (Antonio Carlos Jobim) and the very moving “Comecar de Novo” (Ivan Lins). Remaining romantically hopeful, he offered a surprising “Someday My Prince Will Come” (Larry Morey/Frank Churchill) without any camp or snark. (Considering that he has a vocal snark to rivals that of the late Paul Lynde, this was quite an accomplishment). He then made the (questionable) choice to end his program with a very dark rendition of “Doomsday Serenade” (Jill Tracy), as he practically crawled out of the room. Why did he choose such a downbeat ending that clouded his otherwise series of excellent choices? Thankfully he came back for a more upbeat encore, but he may want to rethink that downbeat choice when he hopefully returns to the New York cabaret scene.

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."