Julian Eaves reviews Seth Rudetsky and Wayne Brady appearing online in the latest of the Seth Rudetsku Concert series.
The Seth Concert Series with Wayne Brady and Seth Rudetsky
Online live Sunday, 10th January (repeated Monday, 11th January)
There are so many great things about this intimate online cabaret chat-show, and one of them – for British audiences at least – is the way it keeps discovering for us talent from Broadway and elsewhere that is new to, or at least not very well known by us. And perhaps one such example is Wayne Brady, recently famed as one of the original line-up in ‘Hamilton’.
‘On Broadway’ (Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil with Leiber and Stoller) made a palatable start: Brady poured out the sweetest, lightest honey of his voice, humming the occasional harmony or snapping out a riff, and slipping in a whole batch of smooth moves, it practically became choreography. But, even more than this, Brady immediately made himself out to be a classy media operator: he had, through a spectacular set of plate-glass walling behind him, a fabulous VIEW behind him of the twinkling lights of Malibu, California… where he lives. And not only that! The room in which he found himself, the other side of ALL that plate glass, looked more like a music recording studio than as he said, his modestly titled, ‘living room’. Of course, not. Wayne told us, in case it had escaped our attention, that he had made some effort to make his home pad look more ‘professional’.
Well, it could hardly have looked less. The Brady living room will, I tell you, be remembered forever as the most stylish and gorgeous setting for the guest star in the history of this programme. (I mean – think about it – what are subsequent guests on the programme going to be able to do to top this!?)
Who knows. ‘So You Want To Meet The Wizard?’ (from ‘The Wiz’ by Charlie Smalls) is a much easier question to answer, I guess. It’s a peach for Brady’s dramatically clean and smoothly articulated voice, with a luscious melody that really takes off in the hands of a singer who can throw the tune up into the air it needs to breathe. Brady knows what he is doing, too: listen to him discuss his past steps with Rudetsky, bringing a startlingly direct and honest line to the confessional, attacking the past for what it was, and not dressing it up in ironic humour. The seriousness of his determination and commitment underpins all the slow, laborious acquisition of a professional voice, making his way through all the small and apparently inconsequential steps that are the usual path that any gift, however wonderful, seems fated to tread.
‘Disney wants to fly you to New York’ is, to be frank, not the kind of thing that gets said in ‘every’ showbiz memoir, but when this kind of reference clangs its way out of the swag bag of memories and recollections that the star has brought along, we suddenly know we’re not stuck back in Kansas anymore. And is that not the chief allure of the theatrical form known as musical theatre.
Instead, we wandered into Jonathan Larson land for a blast of very cool, up-to-the-minute, ‘Rent’: here, the hurdle set by maestro Rudetsky was to convey all the parts in the 4-hander ensemble, ‘Santa Fe’. An easy task for Brady. He melds all the disparate elements of the number together seamlessly, as if there could be no other way of doing it. Just as easily as he staggered and swerved through his Broadway debut, reeling with stage-shock, before he found his Great White Way feet. Seth accompanied Brady through, ‘All I Care About Is Love’ from Kander and Ebb’s, ‘Chicago’, the show that christened him into the A-List of American musical theatre stars.
Pop territory got more of a look in with the next couple of numbers. First, a shot of ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ (Dean Dillon, Linda Hargrove) brought us all back to our senses, and then we sashayed back into musical-land with a vengeance, as Brady told us all he could about making his strides through, ‘Kinky Boots’ (songs by Cyndi Lauper, book by Harvey Fierstein): Brady found every note of pathos and suffering in, ‘Not My Father’s Son’, where time really seemed to stand still and we looked – philosophically and stoically – at a whole life laid out before us in the slenderest, most exposed, and most unforgettable terms.
And there’s a lot more to Brady than we had occasion to hear about in this instalment of ‘Seth Rudetsky Reminds Us Of What A Terrible Loss It Would Be If We Lost Entirely This Treasure-Trove Of Musical Theatre’. With any luck, he’ll be back with more in another show, sometime, someplace, somewhere… as he said to the woes of 2020, in a magically comic and soulful improvised number, ‘Lean Into The Suck!’ I don’t know what was happening elsewhere, but the applause was ringing out in my house. And there was more! We couldn’t leave without a slab of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s megahit, ‘Hamilton’: Brady sang, ‘Wait For It’, one of the songs he made his own as Washington assassin, Aaron Burr. So much more to come. Such as Sam Cooke’s, ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’, our closing hymn to positivity, with a message that we all need to hear today.