December 12, 2019 | By Mark Dundas Wood
There are cabaret singers who have years of experience under their belts, a warm rapport with their audiences, refined acting and singing skills, and a solid understanding of the club-singer’s repertoire. And then there are those with far less experience, whose relationship with listeners is hit or miss, and whose fluency with the cabaret catalog is limited.
Sometimes, to your surprise, you find that singers from the latter group hold your attention more fully than some singers from the former. There’s a spark of something that makes you want to know more. Sometimes it’s the newcomer’s quirky approach to the material, sometimes it’s a vocal quality that you just don’t hear every day. And sometimes, it’s the very audacity to get up on the same stage where stalwarts from that first group regularly perform and just let it rip, whether or not everyone else thinks he or she is ready to be there.
Bruno Giraldi is a singer from the audacious subset. Argentinian-born, he’s been studying and performing as an actor and a singer here in New York for some time. For this iteration of his show, he’s enlisted director Tanya Moberly to help him polish the act.
There’s considerably more polishing yet to be done, but at the second of three performances of This Is Bruno at Don’t Tell Mama, he held everyone’s attention and showed flashes of real talent. He’s brash and self-confident in the extreme. Indeed, it would take considerable nerve for anybody to choose Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s “The Greatest Show” as an opening number, what with lyrics like “Ladies and gents, this is the moment you’ve waited for.” But that was just what Giraldi did. As the program continues, we get the sense that he knows fully well that listeners will find his brashness outlandish. But that’s certainly not going to keep him from doing his thing.
In fact, in the first part of his show he talks matter-of-factly and often quite amusingly about his rejection at casting calls for such shows as In the Heights and Evita. One can picture him at those auditions: making his case, working to minimize the language barrier between himself and those he sings for, then absorbing the blows that come with his listeners’ mumbled dismissal.
At one point he asks, “Why am I here if it’s so difficult for me?” He waxes philosophical about his career woes, going so far as to evoke the dialogues of Socrates. He talks about the passion performers feel for their art, scoffing at the idea that passion is a wonderful thing. Alluding to the passion of Christ, he notes that things were hardly “a tailgate party” for the Man from Nazareth.
Later we get to know Giraldi for his less ethereal passions. He sings a rousing version of Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse’s “Bring On the Men,” tossing out an addendum to the song’s title: “Or anyone else for that matter!” During the song, he goes to the piano and flirts with his musical director, Sorin (“Soso”) Frisan. Afterward, he talks about the perils of unrequited love, whether one is the lover or the unloved. Still later in the show, he turns even more serious and addresses political suppression in his native country. In Spanish, he sings a fervent “Soy Santiago Maldonado” (Esa te la Debo) about a young Argentinian activist who died in 2017.
Giraldi’s enthusiasm and self-assuredness often find expression in loud singing, broad gestures, and unnecessary movement. But in performances of songs like the Maldonado piece or a gentle rendition of Paul Simon’s “The Boxer,” he proves that he can be focused and in full control.
Frisan provides sound support and demonstrates some especially intricate playing on Amanda McBroom’s “The Rose.” Also on hand are vocalists Adela Maria Bolet and Adeswa Onaghinor, who perform with Giraldi on several numbers. Onaghinor even sings a prologue to the show before Giraldi takes the stage: a rendition of Elton John and Tim Rice’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”
I’m happy to have heard Bruno Giraldi sing at this early stage in his career, and I’m encouraged that he’s chosen to work with a pro like Moberly. I look forward to seeing him grow by leaps and bounds in future outings.
This Is Bruno
Don’t Tell Mama – November 29, December 4, 20