This review of Frans Bloem's Beyond Borders at The Metropolitan Room was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Starring Frans Bloem
Musical Director: Steve Sandberg
The Metropolitan Room
34 West 22nd Street
New York, New York 10010
We drank. Frans sang. Only a handful of us may have been able to stop clapping long enough to take another drink. He went to find a missing guest performer. We chatted briefly. A woman appeared on stage without introduction. Who was this mysterious woman? Who did the wildly entertaining Frans sneak in and out with barely a word from his own mouth? An alternate persona by the name of Maxime who turned an already good show into a great one leaving an indelible impression on the crowd. Trotting in on 7-inch pumps, affectionately nicknamed "stripper stilettos," Frans really strutted his stuff whilst thanking his "mommy" and "poppy" for giving him great legs even if he didn't have their help in achieving his goals. Raucous fun and laughter ensued.
But my, oh my, has Frans Bloem come a long way since starting as a street performer in Paris at age 17. He may have once as a young man traded washing dishes in the City of Lights for washing dishes in the City That Never Sleeps, but he certainly doesn't have to wash anyone else's dishes today. Since that first move from The Netherlands to Paris, he has now become a worldwide boulevardier even donning an expertly tailored white jacket he was gifted for performing in Hong Kong, By showing a myriad of crowds, in a variety of languages, he can put on a show, Frans has been able to overcome daunting obstacles. When he first moved to Paris, he couldn't pay 7 francs in 1971 to upgrade from a small flute called a Piccolo. He told us on this first flute, he used to sing the song "Pigalle." Then, with a skilled piano player to his right, he asked us singing the same song, "Would you like to visit Pigalle with me!" Frans took us back to another time, with his nostalgic touch sharing songs that spoke to him over the years such as "It Will Be My Day." He also gave us a taste of his own personality setting the stage for Maxime by singing songs like "La Boheme" and joking that "he was Bohemian already."
Using his language skills combined with his own infectious personality, Frans created a certain level of mystique even before donning the white gown and Maxime personality. He blended French with Dutch and German, joked about his accent sticking even after 40 years away from Holland, and then sang the Spanish song "Sabor a Mi." Not bad for a former dishwasher! Few people ever dream of having such a successful career. Few people can afford to finance a life in New York City by performing as a singer. Frans proved he earned it by doing a little bit of everything. The majority of the songs were in English and some were age-old classics such as "Brother Can You Spare A Dime." Although no longer contemporary, the majority of the audience recognized them immediately. Frans' story about how he became the man he is today took on a special resonance when, dressed as a woman, he sang, "What Makes A Man A Man," for which he received enthusiastic applause.
Regardless of song choice, Frans combined a flair for the dramatic with his keen sense of the exotic. He guided us into another world with his uncanny ability to sense the mood of the crowd. As the show progressed, he grew more flamboyant and pulled us deeper into his world and experiences as a world citizen. Frans became more and more animated playing off our emotional excitement. He moved along the stage, called out members of the audience, and threw his hands out in gestures at powerful moments. The excellent pianist, Steve Sandberg, helped to create this sense of a building atmosphere. His hands danced up and down the scales on the piano. As the choruses ended, Steve gave a little twist of his own that helped create a sense of harmony between piano and performer. He gradually got more daring with each of Frans' striking gestures giving the sense that the pair have been working together for quite a long time.
I greatly enjoyed Frans' show, and it seemed like everyone who attended was brought to life by Frans' smooth voice. His confidence fell off of him like feathers from an angel's wings. I do hope Frans stays home in New York and performs for us a few more times, but I would completely understand if he took a gig in Amsterdam. If you have a chance to see his new show, Beyond Borders, see it. Even if you are expecting the surprises he has in store, you will be impressed. Thank you, Frans, for living a true New York Story and for showing us the mantra "all are welcome" means something to someone somewhere. For more information regarding Frans Bloem, you can visit his website at www.FransBloem.com