By Brian Scott Lipton . . .
As if there was any question, Mark William may be the true definition of a crowd-pleaser, as proven by “Back With a Beat,” his September 25th show at The Green Room 42. This enthusiastic young singer’s unprecedented combination of Las Vegas razzle-dazzle and Midwestern charm and sincerity – he spent most of the pandemic in his childhood home in Ohio – proves to be an incredibly winning formula, even winning over a house stocked with a galaxy of theater and cabaret notables, including Sandy Duncan and Don Correia, Brenda Vaccaro and Lee Roy Reams, Jana Robbins, Haley Swindal and Klea Blackhurst and Dale Soules.
Naturally, it helps that William has a strong, crooner-like voice that proves invaluable as he effortlessly tackles some of the world’s best-loved Broadway standards (whether performed alone or, more often, as part of a medley) from “Never Never Land” to “She Loves Me” to “A Lot of Livin’ to Do.”
Further, one has to admire William’s fearlessness and bravado in choosing songs associated with some of the most iconic artists of all time, including Barbra Streisand (“On a Clear Day” and “The Music That Makes Me Dance”), Judy Garland (“The Trolley Song” and “Over the Rainbow”), Cher (“The Way of Love”) and Dusty Springfield (“The Look of Love”) – and then performing them without an ounce of inner or outer perspiration showing!
He’s particularly effective in paying homage to one of his idols, the late, great Peter Allen, by beautifully putting over a trio of the singer-songwriters “Arthur’s Theme,” “If You Were Wondering,” and “The Boy Next Door,” the latter of which allows William to show off his considerable dance skills.
Improving his dancing, he says, was just one of the things he did during his 14 months in Ohio (taking lessons at half the price of NYC, he laughingly noted); another was composing original songs, two of which he debuted here: the charming love ballad “Wherever We Land” and the highly dramatic “Circus Act” (co-written with Andrew Morrisey, who joined him on piano), which is from an upcoming musical based on the works of Oscar Wilde.
Throughout the 90-minute act, William gained superb support from his six-piece band (musical director/pianist Clint Edwards, percussionist Jonathan Ward, guitarist Jernev Berjar, trumpeter Josiah Lamb, bassist Alex Tremblay and saxophonist Dan Meinhardt) whose sumptuous sounds filled the soigne supper club.
Just before his encore, William “closed” his show with Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman’s yearning-yet-defiant “Let Me Be Your Star” (from the TV series Smash). That prayer has already been answered: William is already a star – one who is sure to shine even more brightly as the years go by.
Photos: Genevieve Rafter Keddy