My first night in L.A., I was taken out for what promised to be a relaxing dinner at The Coterie at Twist, an upscale eateryin the Hollywood Renaissance that was launching its first cabaret night. One of the performers was Broadway’s David Burnham (Wicked), who came over to our table to say hi before the show. He’s cute as a button in person and nice to boot.
The show got off to a weird start when the two women who’d curated the eclectic group of performers took to the stage in street clothes and gave rambling, self-referential speeches that sounded completely unrehearsed. Worse, there was a bizarrely inappropriate snarkiness to what they were saying, as if the entire affair were some kind of joke as opposed to an amazing opportunity for them and all involved.
We were not reminded that the show’s theme was to take familiar songs and perform them in a slightly different way (a new “twist,” a clever idea) until a performer mentioned it well into the evening.
The first few performers were good or close to it, including an outstanding performance of Ke$ha’s (the hostess called her "Keesha") “TiK ToK” done by a young guy with real vocal ability. He hit the nail on the head by singing the song passionately, embracing the humor of singing Ke$ha’s trashy lyrics seriously without making it too broad.
Aside from him, Burnham’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” duet with his accompanist was stellar (he has a soaring voice that really grabs you) and Arielle Jacobs (pictured) from In The Heights sang-acted a song with such emotional intensity it was a thing of beauty. Truly moving and so affecting you felt intrusive watching her.
But some of the other performers—we endured something like 15—truly embarrassed themselves by singing extremely joky numbers, going purely for laughs. It was so tiresome hearing a very fat guy (YouTube "star" Ryan O'Connor) rhapsodize about his eating compulsion during one eternal, poorly sung number.
Still, the “best” was saved for last when one of the hostesses, a Nia Vardalos type, came out and announced she would sing, as if this were some kind of a treat for us. Even though we’d just eaten, we had to endure her smugly, uncertainly warbling her way through “Bohemian Rhapsody” of all things while reading the lyrics from her iPad. She acted as if she were a big star who’d agreed, last-second, to sing and hadn’t had time to rehearse, or a guest on a talk show persuaded to sing without any preparation. And she sounded horrible and still managed to mess up the words, even though they were right there in front of her.
It was painful.
I hate writing nasty comments about people who are trying to do something creative, but I do think if they ever read this they should put aside any hurt feelings and get a couple of important messages—that amazing opportunities should be taken seriously, that rehearsal is not to be blown off and to match the program to the room. Not everything that’s funny Off-Broadway or in an improv club is going to go over at a restaurant in the heart of Hollywood, and second chances are never guaranteed.
To see what's coming up at The Coterie—it has to be an improvement—click here.