Signature Theatre’s summer cabaret series offers a great opportunity to get to know some of the area’s best performers in an intimate venue and last night’s performance by multiple Helen Hayes Award winner Will Gartshore was truly a delight. Entering the stage looking the fashionable lobbyist for the World Wildlife Fund that he is, the former Broadway performer begins his salute to “style…and wearing someone else’s clothes” with a medley of clothes-related tunes including “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” from Hello, Dolly! and “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” from Annie.
Gartshore has the perfect talent and personality for cabaret. He can successfully sing a wide range of music including Broadway show tunes belted to the back rows, wistful songs of lost love, new interpretations of pop standards, and comedic compositions requiring a flair for the dramatic. He has is a good story teller revealing a transparency about his life that seems more than just patter to connect the evening’s songs.
Dressed Up: A Class-Conscious Cabaret is filled with a number of medleys and, like trying to name all the movies in the annual Oscar montages, it’s fun to try to identify all the songs and determine what musical, if any, they are from. One such mash-up combines “Money, Money” from Cabaret with The Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love.” Another combines an Elton John song with a track from South Pacific.
Despite a fairly empty stage, Gartshore fills the space with energy, emotion, and imagination. As he sings “A Bowler Hat” from Stephen Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures, a song he sang in role of the samurai Kayama in Signature Theatre’s 2005 production, his performance makes it possible for us to easily envision his house on a hill, the spider on the wall, and the Dutch ambassador who is a fool.
It is most definitely an evening of adult conversation and themes. Gartshore’s rendition of the intense yet comical tune by satirist Tom Lehrer, “The Masochism Tango,” has everyone in stitches. A later rendering of “The Little Things You Do Together” from Company is thoughtful and heartwarming.
Later in the show, Gartshore welcomes three fellow performers to the stage: Alyssa Wilmoth Keegan, his co-star from the recent production of Becky Shaw, as well as Stephanie Waters and Delores King Williams from Signature’s 2009 Showboat. Gartshore introduces the women with the song “Beautiful Girls” from Follies, giving it the full 1930s Ziegfeld treatment. The three women then have the opportunity to show off their talents followed by Gartshore’s soulful delivery of Lady in Red and playful performance of “Lydia the Tattooed Lady.”
I have one miniscule nit to pick with his closing song, Larry O’Keefe’s “Sensitive Song.” Not that there is anything wrong with his performance, it is bright, comical, and an outrageous end to a fantastic evening. It’s just that the song about a “skanky whore” was trapped in my head, and I even found myself singing it aloud as I left the theater. (Watch Will sing it below).
I can truly say this is one of the best nights of cabaret I’ve had in quite some time. It’s clear that Gartshore is a local favorite. A third performance was added because of the success of the first two. Count me as a fan! I look forward to seeing him in future area productions.
Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.
Will Gartshore’s Dressed Up: A Class-Conscious Cabaret has a final performance tonight, August 16, 2013, at Signature Theatre’s Sizzlin’ Summer Cabarets – 4200 Campbell Avenue, in Arlington, VA. For tickets to this or the other remaining performances of Sizzlin’ Summer Cabarets, call (703) 820-9771, or purchase them online.