By Joel Benjamin
Robin DeJesus first came to modest fame in the film “Camp” more than a decade ago and has achieved success—and two Tony Award nominations—on Broadway for In the Heights and La Cage aux Folles. As he bounded onto the 54 Below stage, it was clear he still had the puppy-dog boyishness displayed in the film, now overlaid with a patina of professional slickness. His show, Crush to Crushed was meant, he said, to chart romantic passions from first meeting to disappointment. His seven-song opening medley (all by Léo Chauliac & Charles Trenet), which ran the gamut from sexual provocation (“Bootylicious”) to sad exultation (“Survivor”), laid out the theme.
After a story about a young lady he met in high school and how he moved to New York City and met a guy he realized that “I Can Do Better Than That” (Jason Robert Brown). “I Wish You Love,” (Chauliac/Trenet/Breach) was a sardonic look at breaking up to which he added a funny expletive. “Song For the Dumped” (Ben Folds Five), which could have been subtitled “Give Me My Money Back,” was a nasty look at the pettiness of ending an affair.
Remembering his supportive parents, he did a loving “Corre” (Jesse & Joy) as a tribute. He took on the In The Heights song “Breathe” (Lin-Manuel Miranda) as a tale of shame and guilt and achieved a sweetly sad mood with “Manhattan” (Sara Bareilles).
He sang songs by two current pop star bad girls, Britney Spears (“Dear Diary”) and Miley Cyrus (“Wrecking Ball”) gaining “pop cred” with his eager interpretations, but still chose to anchor his show with “Somewhere” (Bernstein/Sondheim) which he sang quietly and effectively.
DeJesus is still very young and has a number of irritating mannerisms, such as repeating several phrases or words—Sh-poopy, Namaste, it will get better, etc.—over and over again the way others might use worry beads. He needs editing and he needs to take a few more breaths. His talent and enthusiasm are enormous, particularly apparent when he’s on stage in a scripted role, but he has yet to master playing himself.
Michael J. Moritz, his music director/pianist led Billy LaGuardia on drums and Adam DeAscentis on bass with great energy and skill, backing up Mr. DeJesus in every twist and turn of his act.
Photos: Monica Simoes
Robin DeJesus – Crush to Crushed (appeared Nov. 24 & 25)
254 West 54th St.l between Broadway and 8th Ave.
New York, NY
Tickets and Information for upcoming events: 866-468-7619 or www.54below.com