By Melissa Griegel . . .
Jersey-born Robert Bannon (Saturday Night Live) was right at home at The Green Room 42 surrounded by friends, family, and fans, when he did his introspective cabaret show reflecting on his upbringing and how he came to be the performer he is today. He encouraged the room to sing, dance, laugh, and clap along with him, and that they did to Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” and at the encore, when he sang “Turn Back Time.”
Bannon’s performance was peppered with slide show images from his childhood. He introduced a medley of songs by a group whom, he said, “…inspired me. You may know them. They are pretty famous.” He then launched into a Muppets medley, beginning with “Rainbow Connection” to the happy laughter of the audience. He reminisced about his childhood, “back when there were VCRs” and his mom had to play The Muppets Take Manhattan to lull him to sleep.
The show, directed by Robbie Rozelle, was a carefully culled set list that perfectly accompanied Robert’s warm and funny storytelling. Bannon’s grandma introduced him to the world of Liza, Frank, and Sammy. Even though his brother was not into Broadway, cabaret and theater and preferred to be on the football or baseball field, Bannon said “he knew all of the Liza Minnelli songs because of me.” His brother Greg and his wife Christina looked proudly on, along with parents Rose and Greg as he sang Liza’s “The World Goes ‘Round.”
Bannon talked fondly of the good times in his childhood such as being a “Fanilow” seeing Barry Manilow 22 times, going to Julliard Prep at age 12, and seeing Rent at that tender young age. He also talked about the difficult times, such as getting Lyme disease that led to meningitis and resulted in home schooling for his entire high school years. That experience led him to struggle with college and jobs and abandon theater for a while. With some tough love from his dad, and the support of the rest of his family, he got back into showbiz and sang a touching tribute to his father singing Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” and then leading right into his own original song and pride anthem “I Think He Knew” from his debut album Unfinished Business.
One of the crowd’s favorite parts of the evening was when he turned on the fandom mode with a fun mix of Barry Manilow songs. Bannon talked about going back to acting school at the age of 33 having a completely horrible audition for the role of Mark in Rent. The nerves kicked in and he forgot the lyrics. A few years later, the opportunity arose again, and since he saw himself more as a Roger, he auditioned for that part instead. The directors thought differently and cast him as Mark. In homage to his journey with Rent, he did a “bi-polar” version of “What You Own”, singing both Mark and Roger’s lines.
Rewind was led by Music Director/pianist Yasuhiko “Yaz” Fukuoka, bassist Wes Moreland, guitarist Dave Cinquegrana and percussionist Simon Fishburn.
You can catch Robert Bannon on November 3rd at Stateworks at Studio 2-3-7 in Pompton Lakes, NJ, on November 28th as he interviews Myles Frost (MJ: The Musical) at Montclair State University as part of his Broadway Lecture Series, and on his YouTube virtual talk show The Roundtable live on Thursday nights. For more information on these events go to www.robertbannon.com.
Photos by Melissa Griegel Photography