This review of John Jeffrey Martin's If By Some Freak Chance at Don't Tell Mama was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
If By Some Freak Chance
Starring John Jeffrey Martin
Don't Tell Mama
343 West 46th Street
New York, New York 10036
Reviewed 6/14/15 at 8:00 p.m.
John Jeffrey Martin, named John after his grandfather, famed singer/actor Johnny Desmond, grew up on Long Island and graduated from the College of Visual & Performing Arts at Syracuse University. Jeff is an accomplished actor, musician and painter, He currently plays Richard Bailey and part of the Ensemble in the Broadway production of Kinky Boots at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. He got good notices for appearing as Troy Bolton in the national tour of Disney's High School Musical and has appeared on Broadway in The Rocky Horror Show, Hairspray and Good Vibrations. He has been composing and singing his own songs for the past 15 years, the last show being at Don't Tell Mama on March 20, 2015. While he did perform four songs in this show, some original, and some covers, accompanying himself on the electric guitar, If By Some Freak Chance was primarily about the presentation of "absurd improv characters" he has created (some with their own screenplays in development) that are "accelerated snippets of humanity born in the chaos of the center of his brain." On his Facebook Page, Jeff Martin heavily promoted this show calling it "a fully committed evening of character-based comedy" that he intended to be "a living art exhibit" where his characters would "tell stories and share their lives" with us. He said the phrase he had in his mind was, "If you build it, they will come." Unfortunately, besides me and my guest, and his girlfriend, there were only two other people in the audience.
The structure for introducing the characters was an audition to find a replacement for Nestor, a man with a sinus condition who was leaving as host of Nestor's Notable Radio Show. Using different wigs, caps, hats, glasses, and other props, Jeff Martin appears as different characters who argue why they should be hired as Nestor's replacement. We are introduced to Pepe, Andre, Colby, Gary, Al, Marv and many others who fail to tell any interesting stories about their lives. He hoped his show would get the audience to "laugh, squirm and think" but it only made me squirm. Jeff Martin occasionally and very rarely was able to successfully deliver a funny line. One was when his Italian character Al spoke about making his famous "water reduction sauce, which is good for making any pasta dish," and another was when Gary, who spent the last fifteen years in college paid for by his parents, who after working many jobs to pay for his tuition, finally killed themselves, said, "there is an upside; my parents did pack away enough cash to let me stay in school for one more semester, especially given their lack of current living expenses." The bottom line is that the characters Jeff Martin has created are not interesting or unique enough, there is no storyline worth telling, and there is very little that is funny about them. The words "stupid" and "silly" come to mind.
On the other hand, John Jeffrey Martin is an accomplished singer and songwriter. His covers of Neil Young's "Old Man" and Paul Anka's "My Way" were inspired and his original songs showed promise as well. Jeff Martin claims his 15-year singing career has not resulted in the breakthrough he would have liked but as I learned in my many years as a partner in Cassone & Stevens Management (that had offices in the Ed Sullivan Theater building), many people have talent. In fact, talent is abundant in New York City. That is never enough to succeed. You also need perseverance, dedication, and an almost obsessive desire to follow ever lead and take advantage of every contact to maximize your chances of obtaining that breakthrough role and building a fan base to eventually launch a successful career. With social media, that is even more possible today than it was two decades ago. When I first contacted Jeff Martin about reviewing his show, I sent him a few links via Facebook based on a conversation we had. He did not view them. Then, at the end of the show, I gave him my e-mail and asked him to send me his bio and a list of all his characters and the correct spelling of their names. Now, two days later, he still has not sent them to me. This is the problem. John Jeffrey Martin clearly has extraordinary talent. Just look at his website at www.JohnJeffreyMartin.com yet that is not enough to succeed in this business. He needs a hard-working, legitimate, talented manager, or mentor, who knows how to harness his talents and get him the help he needs. With proper packaging, motivation and hard work, Jeff Martin has the potential to be a star.