Anthony J. Piccione
New York Theatre Critic
There’s a lot of impressive history behind the Duplex Cabaret Theatre. I remember when I first went there to see a friend perform in her own show this past summer, and seeing and hearing about all the past legends – from Joan Rivers to Woody Allen – spent their early careers in this legendary venue. Of course, like any venue that has so many guest performers, it’s fair to assume that for all the good performers, there are also the bad ones. Every so often, however, there are also the performers who aren’t bad, but aren’t phenomenal, either, which is what I was treated to this past weekend.
Enter Ronny Dutra, who recently presented his auto-biographical cabaret show entitled Wave. His credentials are impressive: He just recently was featured in the innovative new dance show entitled SWAY - A dance trilogy, and has also starred in productions of Legally Blonde and Rent. The narrative that the show revolves around is certainly one meant to inspire: That of a young man from Brazil who, with no money in his pockets, leaves his family to move to New York and have a successful career. The showtunes he selected – ranging from musical theatre, as well as classic Disney films – also were fine choices to go with the theme of this show.
The problem: The man singing each song came across as having zero personality. I could easily see someone else performing this exact same set, and around the exact same themes and narrative, and giving it a rave review. However, while his vocals were impeccable, to be sure, that’s only one aspect of what makes a great cabaret performer, with the other being the charisma to keep an audience engaged and excited.
To be fair, this may just be my own personal assessment. After all, the audience was roaring with applause, at the end of the night. Nonetheless, an issue I often have with cabaret shows is that, in order for me to fully enjoy it, the lead performer absolutely must be able to captivate an audience. I’ve seen many shows in NYC where the singer is radiating with charisma, while also nailing each vocal note. Yet in the case of Mr. Dutra, I can’t say the same.
I will be generous, and say that perhaps he was simply having an off-night. Given his impressive resume, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility. I’d be curious to see him perform again, in the future, to see if he can turn in a stronger performance.
“Wave” ran for one night only at the Duplex Cabaret Theatre.