This review of John Barr's "In Whatever Time We Have" was written and published by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and appeared in Volume I, Issue 1 (November, 1997) of Applause! Applause!
"In Whatever Time We Have" - John Barr
Eighty-Eight's (228 West 10th Street, NYC)
The flyer announcing John Barr's appearance at 88's boasts that "On the West End stage, he has played leading roles in Les Miserables, Evita, Sweeney Todd, Aspects of Love and the European premiere of Flora, The Red Menace." After seeing his cabaret show, I can confirm that John Barr can sing beautifully and can certainly belt out a note. He belongs on Broadway and in London's West End. However, in my opinion, he should not perform again in a cabaret setting until someone sits him down and explains to him what "cabaret' is all about. According to his publicity packet, John Barr "has become established as one of (London Cabaret's) most consistently successful and popular performers." If this is true, I may skip the Cabaret Convention in London in 1999.
Last year, John Barr performed at the Seventh Annual New York Cabaret Convention. His first time in front of a New York cabaret audience. If his cabaret credentials from London were legitimate, he should have knocked them dead, especially given his extensive stage experience. I did not see his performance at the Seventh Annual Cabaret Convention. However, I was told by a trusted friend who did that he did not go over well. When that same friend innocently mentioned to John Barr that she caught his performance, he immediately became defensive arguing that "he was very nervous" at the Convention.
I was not moved emotionally by any song John Barr sang. I sat stonefaced as his adoring fans that made up the majority of the room cheered him on. Even his rendition of "Corner of the Sky" exhibited no real emotion. Another critic attending the show that evening told me outside that "John forgot to reach inside to feel." That same critic told me that John Barr was in fact much improved from last year. Perhaps that is true. But he still has a very long way to go.
Cabaret is about intimacy. Sharing with your audience. Singing songs with the inflections and emotions you wish to emphasize. John Barr sings cabaret as if he were belting out a song in a large theatre. Although he seemed pleasant enough, his audience was unable to capture a glimpse of his personality. Perhaps it is the fact that he is British and incapable or unwilling to express his true self and his feelings in public. Perhaps it is just that he needs to re-think his approach to cabaret. I want John Barr to succeed and I think he has the talent to put together a great cabaret show one day.