Daniel Koek: West End Story

| July 26, 2017

Daniel Koek

West End Story

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, July 19, 2017

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg for Cabaret Scenes

Daniel Koek

Daniel Koek (pronounced “Cook”) made his United States performance debut offering good looks, abundant charm, impish humor (which seems to be in the DNA of all Australian performers), and an impressive voice somewhat sabotaged by international flight gunk that occasionally led his falsetto passages into self-described “Scooby Doo” land. Two stool-tops’ worth of liquid remedies were regularly consulted (“the gin works best”), and the singer sounded far better than he gave himself credit for.

The program was based around an old standby, for those making their cabaret debuts here—an autobiographical introduction. Charting his life from Australian childhood to struggling young acting student in London, to West End triumphs in shows such as West Side Story and South Pacific, to finally becoming the youngest Jean Valjean on the West End. There were comic stories and sentimental stories (told with touching sincerity), and introductions of people in the audience who were part of some of the tales.

Songs from these shows were offered up, as well as a Billy Joel medley, a comic take with audience participation on “Where I Want to Be” from Chess, and even a song from the obscure Ghost: The Musical. All of these items were offered up with a caressing of lyrics, a directness of interpretation, and a notable adjustment to the size of the room — not always present in musical theater refugees.

He also brought along some guest performers for duets: the lovely Betsy Struxness, the incredible Alicia Krakauer (someone, quick, here’s your new Fanny Brice!), and Tam Mutu, who had been Javert to Koek’s Valjean in London. The two offered up the thrilling “Confrontation.” This, perhaps inevitably, led to the climax of the evening, “Bring Him Home,” which, through a miracle of muscle memory and strong intent, was both thrilling and perfection.

The one flaw of the evening? The ballads. And more ballads. And more ballads. For a man with a great sense of humor, the exclusion of a single comedy number was very disappointing. The patter was light and fun; the songs were all business. Perhaps when Koek returns (and we certainly hope he will) he might equalize the balance a bit.

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Category: Cabaret Reviews, New York City, New York City Cabaret Reviews, Regional

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