Bart Greenberg | April 2, 2022
Take the Moment
Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, March 16, 2022
Reviewed by Bart Greenberg
Jeff Flaster made a highly impressive solo cabaret debut with his show, Take the Moment. As with many such programs, the subject was autobiographical. One of the things that made the evening special was that his story is definitely unique—there aren’t many cabaret performers who have degrees in engineering from MIT. With his fine tenor and his warm and inviting personality, he made an impressive first outing.
Flaster’s musical background is a mix of popular and classical melodies which led to a surprising blending of both genres during the evening, so Benny Goodman, Billy Joel, and Tony Hatch merged with Beethoven and Donizetti. Big-band standards “Don’t Be That Way” and “And the Angels Sing” were smoothly integrated in a medley of “AM-radio” numbers from his childhood, including “Downtown,” “Georgy Girl,” “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” and “Up, Up and Away.” The fine and intriguing arrangements were created by music director Matthew Martin Ward.
The singer’s voice is a pleasure to listen to, given this wide range of musical styles. On the more popular numbers, there are echoes of Dick Haymes and Johnny Ray in his lyrical tones and attractive vibrato. His treatment of ballads is emotionally effective, especially in a deeply felt “Baby Mine.” Here Flaster’s focus is not on a baby elephant, but on something else very precious to him. His original songs, written for various projects including several full-scale musicals, dotted the evening. “A New Country” and “Pride” as his opening and closing numbers, respectively, showed a solid knowledge of how to create an appropriately and moving mood. He even dared to add some personalized lyrics to Lennon and McCartney’s “Derivatives” and to the title tune; it was given a swinging treatment that was apt and well integrated.
Under the careful direction of Tanya Moberly, the star used the cabaret space very well, shifting to specific parts of the stage for each segment as he delivered his story with endearing openness and a certain impish charm. It has taken Flaster quite a while to make his cabaret debut; the only proper response is What took him so long?