Sunday, February 15, 2015

Applause! Applause! Review of Stearns Matthews in Spark at The Laurie Beechman Theatre by Andrew Martin

This review of Stearns Matthews in Spark at The Laurie Beechman Theatre was written by Andrew Martin and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

"Spark" - Stearns Matthews

Stearns' Album Release Show
The Laurie Beechman Theatre
West Bank Cafe (407 West 42nd Street, NYC)
Reviewed 2/11/15 at 7:00 p.m.

When cabaret first began to enjoy its initial renaissance in New York over three decades ago, most largely with the late Erv Raible and Rob Hoskins at the helm, it more often than not emerged as being propelled by female talent. However, male vocalists have always endured as their own force with which to be reckoned, including Phillip Officer, Tom Andersen, Mark Coffin, Tony Award-winning Billy Porter, and singer-instrumentalists Billy Stritch and Ricky Ritzel, among myriad others. Today, and in the here and now, Stearns Matthews may well be their heir apparent. His most recent appearance, at The Laurie Beechman Theatre, to celebrate the release of his new CD Spark, definitely displays not only the young gentleman's golden vocal timbre, but his inherent gift for communication on a variety of numbers that range from intensely serious to humorously delightful. Aided and abetted by the divine Christopher Denny at the piano, the evening never proves anything but an utter thrill and a prime example of the art form at its best.

After launching into a splendid delivery of Stephen Schwartz's "The Spark Of Creation," Matthews masterfully manages to take a chestnut like Bacharach and David's "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" and transform it into a moment that can only be described as utter velvet. "My Alligator And Me" by John Bucchino is merely heightened further with the "guest appearance" of musician "Toots" Matthews on melodica, and by the time he plows into Rodgers & Hart's "My Romance," Matthews borders on legitimately incomparable. "Stop In The Name Of Love" proves a particular standout as delivered in German, French, Italian and even Pig Latin, and he bursts forth equally triumphant with the uproarious "Every Time A Friend Succeeds (A Little Piece Of Me Dies Inside)" by Amanda Green; it's clear that he's a definitive find for the current cabaret climate if one hadn't already discovered his brilliance. Perhaps even more mesmerizing is Matthews' ability to take such run-of-the-mill pop standards as Roger Miller's "King Of The Road" and infuse them with a stripped-bare plaintive quality, which almost makes them sound as though they've never been sung before and belong solely to him.

Although there are no official announcements at the time of this writing for an upcoming club appearance by Stearns Matthews, he has rightfully received a 2015 Bistro Award for his CD Spark and is certain to continue his conquest of all things cabaret. One can't be urged more strongly to attend his next show whence upon that should happen.

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