By and Starring Seth Bisen-Hersh
Don't Tell Mama, 343 W. 46th
Non-equity (Thurs. 9/27, , Sat. 9/29, , Sun. 9/30, )
Review by Byrne Harrison
“Why am I not famous yet?”
Seth Bisen-Hersh has taken the bitter lament heard in nearly every bar, restaurant,
and office in
Starring Bisen-Hersh, both as a singer and pianist, the show also features Cait Doyle, Julie Goldin, Rori Nogee, and Reed Prescott. While the actors are not evenly matched it terms of vocal talent, each has a chance to shine in this show. Prescott, who has a marvelously strong and evocative voice, does particularly well in "When the Spotlight's Off," a moving song about an actor's offstage life. Similarly, Goldin shines in the touching "The Last Night in My Apartment," which uses moving out of an apartment as a metaphor from moving on in life. Nogee, whose voice is not always as strong as the others, nevertheless shows great emotional range in "Dreams," a particularly beautiful and well-written song, and good comic timing in "So You Wanna Be a Performer." Doyle seems particularly well-suited for comedy. Her versions of "Caught Between Two Men" and "My Pretty Song" provided some of the best laughs of the night. Bisen-Hersh saves the best songs for the other performers, but his rendition of "In Love" was very nice, and his as-funny-as-it-is-vulgar "If Only I Were Gay" was an amusing end to the evening.
Bisen-Hersh is a talented composer and his lyrics often very good. He has a penchant for wit combined with vulgarity (witness his use of 'a cock and a hard place' in "Caught Between Two Men" or his rhyming of vagina and china in "Sexual Frustration"). At time however, this wittiness can seem too contrived. He is often at his best when he is most sincere. Although he pokes fun at mawkish sentimentality and vacuous pretty songs in "My Pretty Song," some of his strongest songs of the evening, "When the Spotlight's Off," "The Last Night in My Apartment," "In Love," and "Dreams" are sentimental pretty songs. Not mawkish or vacuous, thank goodness, but touching and sweet.
The main weakness of the show is the patter surrounding the music. Even at its best, it sounds like bad improv. While a certain amount of it might have been necessary in order to allow the actors time to prepare for the next song, it was hard to sit through and rarely added anything to the production. Additionally, the choreography was uninspiring. Good songs and good actors will only take a production so far, there needs to be something interesting to look at as well. A good director could have taken care of some of this and produced a tighter, more unified show.
Why Am I Not Famous Yet? is an amusing piece of cabaret. Though it is not as strong as it could be, an audience is sure to be entertained by Bisen-Hersh's songs and the talented performers.
Copyright 2007 by Byrne Harrison
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