Every actor has that one role that is the lynchpin of their career and Bruce Sabath shares his in his new show.
by Stephen Mosher Nov. 9, 2021
Remember the old days, when people would gather in the living room and watch a carousel slide show of photos from the family vacation, or the school play, or maybe just the history of the family? Wasn’t it boring? Aren’t you glad we don’t have to do that anymore? Or what about the experience of listening to actors talk about the plays they did in high school, or college, or community theater? Are you asleep, yet? Could you just die over the thought of either of these two experiences from the past? Because Bruce Sabath just debuted his new show SEARCHING FOR TEVYE at Don’t Tell Mama, complete with a slide show of family photos and a litany of shows in which he has performed, including shows dating back to (at least) Junior High School, possibly elementary school… and it is absolutely one of the most charming shows of this cabaret season. There is not one chance of dozing off during Mr. Sabath’s very personal tale of his passion for performing and for one role in particular, and that is because Bruce Sabath has come to work armed with the most valuable tool in the trade of cabaret: complete and total authenticity.
The famed educator and television personality James Lipton had a popular TV program, an interview series titled INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO upon which he, as host, interviewed famous actors. At the end of every episode, Mr. Lipton posed the Proust Questionnaire to his guests and one of the questions was “What turns you on, artistically, spiritually, personally?” If posited this question, this writer will always answer, “Absolute honesty” — that is why Bruce Sabath succeeded at not only holding my attention but holding my rapt attention. There is no grandstanding, pomposity, or pretension to be found in one moment of his program – only a man standing in the light and telling a tale that everyone, actor or not, should find relatable. It is a story that is relatable because it is a story about dreams, about pursuing those dreams, and then celebrating those dreams when they are realized.
Sabath’s is a simple enough story: he was born, he was bitten by the acting bug, he got pulled away from his passion, he reclaimed his passion. Along the way he had successes, he had setbacks, he met remarkable people, he made a family of friends, and he stands, today, unabashedly but never brashly proud of his achievements. Mr. Sabath speaks from a place where joy and humility stand hand in hand, sharing not only his personal history but that of his family, using his acting, singing, and instrumental talents to convey those stories through an ongoing monologue of his creation and through the words and music of others who have touched him along the way. Whether singing in English or Yiddish, from Broadway or the Top 40, Bruce’s voice bends to the needs of the story… and the composer. With a voice that fits, glove-like, either Sondheim, Porter, and Bricusse or Croce, Denver, and Stevens, Sabath remains a constant pleasure throughout his show, but especially when talking about Tevye, that role that became (and that stayed) his touchstone, his constant companion, his North Star. Guided through his storytelling by cabaret proficient Tanya Moberly, Sabath leans into the musicality of the show, even though there may actually be a greater portion of spoken program than sung, and in his musical undertakings, he is fortunate to have Sabina Torosjan on violin and Steve Count on bass by his side. So open and honest a voice and performance deserve the extra oomph provided by more musical back-up than just a piano, although pianist Ben Kiley’s musical direction and arrangements would certainly have been enough: it’s just nice to have Mr. Sabath have a more replete sound to back up so delightful a musical tale
If there were one observation that might be made, it is that the play begins to feel long at the seventy-five-minute mark. There are only about ten or twelve minutes left after that turning point, so perhaps director Moberly and actor Sabath can revisit the script with a red pencil, the preferred manner of tightening the time because Bruce can (and should) certainly not speak any faster than he already is. The tempo of the show is perfect as it is; there are just (to borrow a phrase from the film Amadeus) “too many notes” and, even with a good story, ninety minutes of cabaret can leave an audience squirming and massaging their necks from having been stationary for too long – not the final impression with which to leave your audience. It’s a minor bump in Bruce Sabath’s more than heartwarming road of discovery, cabaret-style, one especially aided by the seamless execution of the slide show by a techie who should know exactly when in the program the images should appear on the wall because she is, indeed, Mrs. Sabath, herself, Karen, working in the best interest of the actor on the roof. Between them, Mr. and Mrs. Sabath and the entire SEARCHING FOR TEVYE team have created a cabaret show that never, not even once, reminds you of vacation pics or a vhs show video. All this program does is remind you of the power of nurturing your dreams and always staying honest in your storytelling.
Bruce Sabath SEARCHING FOR TEVYE plays Don’t Tell Mama again on November 17th and 18th at 7 pm. For information and tickets visit the Don’t Tell Mama website HERE.
HERE is the Bruce Sabath website.
Bruce Sabath gets a five out of five microphones rating for performing his entire show without the use of a lyric sheet, tablet, or music stand.
Photos by Stephen Mosher