NY Music Review by Joe Regan Jr.
Gregory Nalbone, the bartender model with the beautiful baritone voice, returned (May 14th) to the place where he played his first New York singing engagement some years ago, the Duplex Cabaret Theatre, with an unusually different show entitled “Awakening.” What’s very different this time around is he is working with a new musical director, the very talented Kenneth Gartman, whose arrangements and back up harmonies and counter melodies, give new focus to Nalbone’s superb singing. Nalbone and Gartman also have the taste to enlist extraordinarily talented Matt Scharfglass for support on the bass. Scharfglass, at times, makes his instrument sound like a classical cello.
“Awakening” is a much more serious show than Nalbone’s previous shows. Right away, sitting against the crook of the piano, Nalbone sings a fragment of “The Rose” which melds into “My Declaration” which showcases his power and special dramatic phrasing. When you hear his high notes sung loudly without strain you know that Nalbone’s voice is more beautiful than ever before. There is very little patter in this show. Most of the time one song follows another without comment.
The songs in “Awakening” are very contemporary and some of them unfamiliar to cabaret audiences. Some of the titles: “Welcome the Rain,” “God Give Me Strength,” “Dogs in the Yard,” “Give Me Love.” Early on, there is credo: Kander and Ebb’s “Say Yes,” sung more forcefully than I have ever heard even Liza sing it. And when Nalbone sings the LeGrand/Bergmans’ “You Must Believe In Spring,” it is so romantic, it wipes away the memories of all the versions that the legendary cabaret artists sung before. There is a very defiant “I Just Wanna Dance” which includes a four letter word again and again and a very tender “Where Do I Go” from “Hair.”
There is a very cute introduction to a wonderfully funny Alan Chapman song sung in quasi-Spanish. I won’t spoil your surprise by quoting the title but given Nalbone’s history as a go go dancer, the song is very apt and had the audience laughing and cheering.
Towards the end of the show, we get a sumptuous linking of “Here Comes The Sun” and “Good Day Sunshine,” on which Gartman participates in a way you have to hear to feel the glory of that arrangement.
Nalbone’s mature talent is very evident in all the selections and if there is any quibble about this act, it is that it’s ballad heavy. But when he closes with a sweet, tender, full version of “The Rose,” giving full value to every phrase in those lyrics, you know you have had a unique cabaret experience.
Gregory Nalbone’s “Awakening” repeats Friday, May 16 at 7 PM at the Duplex Cabaret Theatre, 61 Christopher Street (at 7th Avenue.) For reservations (and Nalbone sells out every show) call 212 255-5438 or contact on line www.TheDuplex.com