Planning an evening of one composer’s work can be a tricky thing, especially if the composer is a relatively unknown commodity. First, there’s the risk no one will come, as they’re not sure what the evening will sound like; and second, and most importantly: what if his/her work isn’t engaging enough to fill an entire evening?
NYC-based tunesmith Scott Alan doesn’t have to worry there. His work is meaningful, melodic and intimate — perfectly crafted for a cabaret setting. However, his tunes are so powerful, they can soon become…overpowering. It’s like being served a three course meal 10 times over, when a simple canapé or apéritif would do. With only two albums to pull from to assemble this show, the variety in Alan’s canon just isn’t there…yet. You can only listen to so many hands-in-the-air-soul-bearing-showstoppers before it all starts to lose meaning.
Thankfully, director Christopher Pazdernik has assembled a quartet of lovely performers — Lina Kernan, Shannon Strodel, Becky Chicoine and Katherine L. Condit — to deliver this heavy material, and has kept the evening short and sweet. While I think each songstress needed a bit more time with the material (there was noticeable hesitation with the lyrics at points), and a few of the numbers I would shuffle around to meet their unique talents, they each seemed to genuinely care about the message they were delivering, which is essential and refreshing. (I would strike the affected hand-off between performers, though, with the “Sigh…I just sang my feelings. Your turn!” expressions. It came off as insincere and became distracting.)
Scott Alan is a fresh new voice, who’s quickly gaining traction with the next generation of musical theatre artists, so it was nice to finally be exposed to his work. I will definitely check out his albums, and recommend this evening of cabaret, as his emotionally-dense songs seem best suited for a performance-based setting. Just go with an empty stomach — there’s a lot to digest here.
The Distance You Have Come: The Music of Scott Alan plays through Feb. 22, with showtimes on Mondays at 8 p.m. Tickets are available by calling 773-278-1830 or by visiting davenportspianobar.com. Learn more about Scott Alan here.