By Andrew Poretz . . .

Imagine, if you will, an entertainer with the genius, committed put-on of Andy Kaufman, the malapropisms of Norm Crosby, and the singing voice of Robert Goulet (with a vibrato like Bert Lahr’s), and you’d get “Kenn Boisinger” (portrayed by Michael West), one of the funniest and most refreshing acts in musical comedy today. 

Kenn, “The New Voice of Christmas,” used several costume changes, notably several of his trademark “Members Only” jackets and wearing ruby red Christmas slippers, in a show of several of his most popular songs and much new material created for this show at the Laurie Beechman Theatre. He made excellent use of multimedia in the form of brilliant, specially crafted photos and videos.  Boisinger sang mainly original songs that utilized his penchant for malaprops.  With titles like “Daddy Drinks Because You Cry” and “Don’t Wet Your Bed (Or Santa Will Give All Your Toys to Poor Children),” it’s a safe bet that this is not your Andy Williams Christmas Show.

Boisinger opened with his absurdist original, “Can’t We Put the ‘mas Back in Christmas,” wondering where this lost quality can be found.  “It isn’t in the holly in that you use to deck the hall, or underneath the Santa at the Macy’s inside the mall.”  In “It Rained on Christmas and I Stepped in a Poodle,” Boisinger led the audience in an “arf-arf” singalong. 

One of his signature pieces, “Sunday Night at Bemelman’s,” is likely the only song to namedrop Jim Caruso and “Billy Strick” (mispronouncing “Stritch”) while asking the musical question, “Is She a Call Girl or Just a Girl I’d Like to Call?”  (He sang, tongue firmly in cheek, “She could be Jim Caruso’s gal.”) While this song and its references will be especially appreciated by anyone who has been to this bar at the Carlisle Hotel on a Sunday night or Jim Caruso’s Cast Party at Birdland on a Monday night, its construction and Kenn’s delivery were quite funny. 

Boisinger worked extensively with the sensational singer and impressionist Christina Bianco throughout the pandemic in Zoom shows.  Christina (recently reviewed by this writer for Theater Pizzazz) is now living in London, and performed “O Holy Night” with Boisinger “via satellite.”  Kenn’s chat with Christina was so exquisitely timed that if it was actually a video, he fooled everyone. 

Midway through the show, Boisinger brought out his backup singers, “Tawny” and “Backup Singer Number Two.”  The beautiful “Tawny” was played by Kristen Alderson, who played “Starr Manning” on the soap opera One Life to Live for fifteen years, starting at the age of six. 

Boisinger lives at the complex of affordable housing for artists called “Manhattan Plaza.”  Many of its 3,500 residents are elderly, retired performers, and it seems that nearly every day there’s another wreath hung, another body bag mysteriously spirited out.  Boisinger turned this into a morbidly funny song, “Someone’s Always Dead at Manhattan Plaza.”  Appropriately, it killed.  In fact, it is his most requested song.

Nearly every gesture, vocal tic and word out of Kenn’s mouth is laugh-out-loud funny, and his commitment to the character so strong that any unscripted moments or gaffes were handled in character, and sometimes caused accompanist Alan Bukowiecki to laugh.  At many times, he was funny to the point of causing paroxysms of laughter throughout the audience.  

In a rangy, funny, forty-minute Zoom chat, Theater Pizzazz bantered with Kenn Boisinger about his life, his musical influences (Robert Goulet and Luciano Pavarotti), and his songwriting techniques.  (He writes the lyrics, then bangs out a tune on the piano, and sends the tapes to his musical director, Alan Bukowiecki.)

Claiming to be “serious, not funny,” the very funny Boisinger insisted, “I don’t really have comedic influences.  For me it’s about the music, it’s about love, it’s about making feel warm and good, and about hearing the beautiful high notes…,” before warbling his “Pavaratti notes” from “Can Night at Port of Authority.”  Speaking of his macabre “Manhattan Plaza” song, he mused, “That song starts out warm and whimsical, turns dramatic, gets touching, and it takes you through a whole world of emotions, and that’s what I try to do with my songs.  It takes you on a kind of emotional journey.”  He compared himself to Goulet – Boisinger won third place in a Robert Goulet lookalike contest – claiming that if he sings “The Impossible Dream” (sings the song), “People say it feels like you’re in the room with the late Robert Goulet, or they say it feels like there’s a dead Robert Goulet, something like that, but I know it’s complimentary.”  To watch the interview, visit bit.ly/KennBoisinger

Kenn Boisinger’s Holiday Party was a one-off show.  His recorded songs can be found on the major streaming platforms.  Kenn Boisinger’s next scheduled appearance will be at Birdland Jazz in May 2022.

Kenn Boisinger’s Holiday Party

Starring Michael West as Kenn Boisinger

December 12, 2021

Musical Director and accompanist: Alan Bukowiecki

Special guest “via satellite” Christina Bianco

The Kenn Boisinger Backup Singers:

“Tawny” Kristen Alderson

“Backup Singer Number Two” Amy Griffin

Director:  Michael D’Angora

The Laurie Beechman Theatre at The West Bank Cafe, 407 West 42nd Street, NYC

Photos: Andrew Poretz