Small miracles

What If I Told You... I Love You

Written and Directed by Stan Barber, based on characters developed by Stan Barber and Dan DeRiancho
Bank Street Theatre
155 Bank Street (In Westbeth Center, between Washington & West Sts.; 561-9133)
Non-union production (Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, through April 10)
Review by Doug DeVita

There has been a trend lately to hang a linear story on to a classic cabaret performance and create, in effect, a mini-musical. While not always successful, What If I told You... I Love You was an engaging example of this new genre.

Written and directed by Stan Barber, based on characters developed by Barber and Dan DeRiancho, What If I told You... I Love You told the story of Danny, a gay man from New Jersey of Cuban/Irish descent. With all of the roles performed by DeRiancho, Danny's quest for love and acceptance was played out against a variety of song styles from Broadway perennials by Sondheim, Bernstein and Lloyd-Webber to standard pop and rock by Judy Collins and Meatloaf, among others, as well as traditional Irish and Cuban ballads.

Mr. DeRiancho has a winning personality and an absolutely gorgeous voice that can adapt brilliantly to any style of song he chooses to sing. He was easy and relaxed on stage, and established a wonderful rapport with his audience as he played not only the various men in his life but also his suburban Irish mother, Rita (in a spectacular costume by Marlene Marlowe that not only captured this woman's personality but acted as an indictment of suburbia as well). Although his interpretation of the formidable Rita was hilariously insightful and sharp, Mr. DeRiancho had some trouble clearly differentiating between the male characters. His "Mr. Perfect (not Mr. Right, but Mr. Perfect...)," a disco dancing hunk named Luis Miguel, was a model of split-second timing as he danced between the two characters, but it was hard to distinguish the love of his life, Carlos, from his own personality despite some visual clues utilizing a baseball cap. He also seemed to be not as comfortable with the book scenes as he was with the musical numbers. Perhaps that was because, while there were some wonderful set pieces and clever directorial touches, at two and half hours (with intermission), it sometimes seemed as if both Barber and DeRiancho were struggling to pad the evening out to full length (a comic riff on Colorado à la Joan Rivers, while a funny and accurate impersonation of the comedienne, came out of nowhere and seemed tacked on). But these reservations are minor, for DeRiancho was never less than charming, and can sing and interpret a song like few other performers out there. Whenever he opened his mouth to sing, he and the show caught fire.

Mr. DeRiancho had terrific support from his musical director, John Fischer (who managed to get an incredibly lush, fully orchestrated sound from one electric keyboard), and the wonderful, amazingly detailed lights and sound designed by Kevin Levis. The costumes as well as the set (both uncredited, aside from the aforementioned gown) were functional, being professional if not particularly distinguished.

What If I Told You... I Love You could be an incredible evening if it were pruned to a one-act, 90 minute show. As it was, it was a very entertaining evening with a thoroughly delightful performer, one audiences should see (and hear) more of.
Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1/Musical Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 1999 Doug DeVita