Jeffrey M. Wright Delights at the Gaslight Cabaret Festival

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Jeffrey M. Wright, entertainer extraordinaire, performed at The Gaslight Cabaret Festival on 10/24/15.

It takes a certain kind of chutzpah to set upon any stage and perform in front of a bunch of strangers. Be it stand-up comedy, dramatic or musical theatre, vocal or instrumental music, it takes guts and nerve perhaps even more than talent. Of course when someone has immense and diverse talents to go along with that particular blend of gumption and verve, the results are often magical.

Enter Jeffrey M. Wright, one of St. Louis’ premiere leading men on various stages around town and an artesian well of talent. The first time I met him he was playing the lead in New Line Theatre’s run of HIGH FIDELITY and putting John Cusack to shame in the process. Since then I’ve seen him play somber in NEXT TO NORMAL, maniacal in HANDS ON A HARDBODY, and charming in THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE, where he showed off some solid dance moves too. The dude can do everything except for, perhaps, shameless self-promotion. He’s downright apologetic when posting information about his next performance, be it here in St. Louis or at premiere New York City showcases like 54 Below.

I, on the other hand, have no such hang-ups about promoting people and events worth crowing about. The Gaslight Cabaret Festival, presented by The Presenters Dolan and performed at the charming Gaslight Theatre, is such an event. From October through mid-November, the Cabaret Festival’s 2015 Fall Season features some of the most talented performers in the country bring their unique talents to St. Louis’ ever-growing theatre scene. If you’ve never been to a cabaret, they are typically solo acts performing some of their favorite songs from both on and off the lighted stage, with humorous personal anecdotes and moving personal narratives to give the songs more context than, “Hey, WICKED is pretty good—remember this little number?” Don’t dismiss cabaret as a fancy term for a cheesy Vegas lounge act. These performers are bearing a little bit of their souls in front of a hundred or so people. That’s not something one should take lightly, even if the affair is pretty lighthearted.

Jeffrey performed on October 24, accompanied on the piano by talented New York-based entertainer and music director Rick Jensen. Jeffrey performed a brisk set called “The 40s—Theirs…and Mine” consisting of popular songs and show tunes from the 1940s and Jeffrey’s own favorites from his first 40 years. Ranging from introspective ballads to bawdy ditties his grandfather used to play for him to modern classics given a fresh take through Rick Jensen’s inventive arrangements, Jeffrey’s dulcet tenor, charming wit and genuine appreciation of his audience was evident throughout his program. I would have happily listened to Jeffrey share his life experiences and the music that made him the entertainer he is today for as long as his voice would let him.

Here’s the set list from his excellent cabaret (I was very mildly disappointed that Jimmy Buffett's A PIRATE LOOKS AT FORTY wasn't included, but the U2 cover more than mde up for it):

I’M SO LUCKY TO BE ME

SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY

THE LAST TIME I SAW PARIS

ALABAMA CLAY

BLUEBERRY HILL

IF THESE WALLS COULD SPEAK

DON’T FENCE ME IN

SWINGING ON A STAR

VD POLKA

HOOKED ON A FEELING

I STILL HAVEN’T FOUND WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR

OH, WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MORNING

Encore:  I’LL BE SEEING YOU

If you missed out on Jeffrey’s performance, do yourself a favor and plan to attend one of the remaining shows in The Gaslight Cabaret Festival Fall Season 2915. They have some major talents lined up for November, with Paige Brubeck and Evan Sult on November 5 and 12, Portland’s Storm Lange on Nov 6 and 7, New York sensation Karen Oberlin on November 13 and 14, Brian Owens performing a tribute to Johnny Cash on November 19 and Chicago favorite Susan Werner, who is also the composer and lyricist for BULL DURHAM, the musical version of the classic Kevin Costner heading to Broadway soon.

Keep up with The Gaslight Theatre’s upcoming slate of shows by visiting their website: http://www.gaslighttheater.net/

 

Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0