Kamikaze kabaret

I Love Myself

Performed by John Tedeschi
Directed by Jim Hanson
Musical Direction by Andrew Gibbons
Don't Tell Mama
Non-union production (closed)
Review by Doug DeVita

It is a thrilling experience to watch a performer walk fearlessly right up to the edge of his talent and then beyond, and succeed because of the simple self-confidence that comes with knowing just what their limitations are and then using them accordingly.

John Tedeschi is just such a performer, and his recent cabaret evening I Love Myself was just such an experience. Wildly inventive, totally disarming, and completely original in form and content, I Love Myself was no conventional cabaret performance, nor is Tedeschi a conventional cabaret performer. His entrance alone, with him made up like a glam-rock Queen devotee and singing "The Show Must Go On," was jaw-dropping in its audacity, and set the stage for what was to follow: an unlikely mix of stylistically different songs by Journey, Blitzstein, Lloyd Webber, the Rolling Stones, and Aretha Franklin (among others) melded into a seamless hour of joyful, unabashedly narcissistic self-exploration. In fact, it appeared that Tedeschi was hell-bent on showing the audience more of himself than might have been absolutely necessary - sometimes, it seemed to be all about a (literally and figuratively) near-nakedness just for the sake of warped titillation. And yet, while whole chunks of the show shouldn't have worked, Tedeschi's unique on-stage personality, which can best be described as a blend of dignified self possession and let-it-all-hang-out neurosis, managed to keep everything balanced with a riveting delicacy. Never mind that the pop-psychology connections and resolutions were a tad too earnest, and the many costume changes served as little more than speed bumps. Ably supported by his director, Jim Hanson, and musical director, Andrew Gibbons, he performed with such all-stops-out vocal authority and such high-voltage vulnerability that the resulting show was as exciting as it was entertaining.

Anyone looking for a standard evening of standards would be advised to look elsewhere, but for anyone looking for an evening of creative risk-taking that succeeded far more often than it seemed it would (or should), John Tedeschi and I Love Myself, in all its outré glory, fit the bill like the super-tight leather pants Tedeschi shed with demonically gleeful insouciance. Watch for a return engagement, if only to experience something unlike almost anything else out there. Because Tedeschi really is out there, in that you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it kind of way that blows like a bracing gust of fresh air through a cabaret environment that might be getting a little too musty for its own good.

(Technical direction by Bobby Kneeland, Costume design by Sylvester Ceecon, and sound design by Jeff Schacher.)

Box Score:

Directing: 1
Performance: 1
Musical Direction: 2
Sets: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2001 Doug DeVita