Review by Joe Regan Jr.
At 54 Below on September 11, Nicholas Guest did an unusual act about his very unusual life entitled “Finding Nick.” As many other stars at that venue, Guest did a chronicle of his early life. Son of a English diplomat and an American woman, Guest’s brothers include Anthony Haden Guest, New York based writer and humorist, and Christopher Guest, well known actor-director-writer whose works include “This Is Spinal Tap.” This act has been acclaimed in other cities. Although the crowd was sparse because of the September 11 Memorials this evening, they were very enthusiastic in their applause.
“Finding Nick” is about Nicholas Guest’s journey to his own personality. With a very pleasant singing voice with a wide range, Guest appears in a cowboy hat with a guitar and is backed up by superb musicians, Brandon Ellis on cello and Joe Carroll on guitar. His opening number is Ed McCurdy’s folk melody, “Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream” which launches into his life story and his admiration of Bob Dylan records as a child, singing “Tomorrow Is A Long Time.” He is sent to a posh school but that doesn’t stop him, in 1967, from marching against the Vietnam War with other Columbia students. His father disapproves but announces that he has been re-assigned to Switzerland where Guest will attend a special French speaking school. There follows wonderful impersonations of the teachers he meets there, Russians, Italians, and French men and he hilariously mimics them. He is recognized for his poetry and is even published. Later in the act, he states how he utilized these characterizations for his movie and TV parts.
Back in New York a counselor who smokes pot and drinks wine suggests sending him to Paris to attend the American Center. He discovers love with a French girl who introduces him to the music of Jacques Brel. Guest effectively sings Brel’s “Le Plat Pays” and the original French lyrics to “Ne Me Quitte Pas.” He falls in with buddies who are revolutionaries which leads to versions, with great backup by his musicians, of Moustaki’s “Ma Liberte,” “L’Internationale,” and a Lombard folk song, “Bandierea Rosa.” His friends insist he go to a secret cinema to see a film about the Black Panthers and he decides to be one of them, affecting a black beret and dark glasses but when he returns to New York, he discover the movement is over.
His life shifts back and forth between MacDougal Street and Paris and he sings a great “Chanson D’Automne.” In New York City, he is dating an actress whose teacher is Bill Hickey and Hickey insists that he participate in a scene. It is a great imitation of a strung out actor-director, one of HB Studios great teachers. Guest is dating Maureen Stapleton’s daughter and she insists he join her in a tour of Neil Simon’s “Gingerbread Lady.” Although it is a small part, he gets his Actors Equity card.
He decides to hit the road as a hobo and sings enthusiastically “Hobo song” by Woody Guthrie. When he gets to Los Angeles, he gets steady work in features and TV (“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,“ “The Long Riders.“ “Trading Places,“ “Frozen,“) and has a major international success with a series called “USA High” on the USA internet channel.
Guest calls to the stage a special guest who is revealed to be his daughter, Elizabeth Guest, and together they sing a moving version of Lennon and McCartney’s “In My Life.” For an encore, Guest returns to Dylan and “I Shall Be Released.” Everyone in the audience stood up and applauded Guest, his special guest and his musicians.
Nicholas Guest’s “Finding Nick” repeated at 54 Below Saturday, September 12 at 9:30 pm.
Photos: Maryann Lopinto