Brent Barrett at The Crazy Coqs
The American baritone Brent Barrett has returned to the retro staple The Crazy Coqs at Zédel with a cabaret show compiled with his long time collaborator Christopher Denny, who provides piano accompaniment for this performance. Barrett has a musical theatre background and found early fame in 1980 when he played the role of Tony in the revival of Bernstein’s West Side Story on Broadway. With his cabaret show Barrett seeks to fuse the tradition of the 1940s crooner with a more contemporary, ironic and Broadway imbrued feel.
Quite a showman, Barrett links his repertoire of songs to his own life experiences and in many ways the show – rather unimaginatively named Night Songs – provides a retrospective glimpse at the singer’s life and career. Barrett provides anecdotes about luminaries such as Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins and Stephen Sondheim – all of whom Barrett befriended and knew during the early 80s. In between classic ballads such as the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening and Some Enchanted Evening, Barrett talks about his origins and all the musical clichés are present; he was a Midwestern boy from a small town called Quinter who dreamed of making it big in the city, and so on.
The songs are sentimental pieces and are appropriated from a broad spectrum of big band, vocal jazz, easy listening and musical numbers written between the late 3os and late 60s. Although stylistically eclectic, the way the songs are performed makes them sound like the back catalogue of just a single composer and this can be a little problematic. Barrett undeniably has an olive oil voice and is a charming master of ceremonies but some of the song choices and his operetta style might disappoint easy listening fans, some of whom may want something a bit more traditional.
For those seeking an unpretentious, nostalgic singing experience in a beautiful Art Deco venue they could do a lot worse than seeing Barrett perform his Night Songs. His fantastically flamboyant rendition of Who Took Me Home Last Night is alone worth the admission fee.
Guy de Vito
Brent Barrett is at the Crazy Coqs until 18th January 2014. For further information or to book visit Crazy Coqs’ website here.
Watch Brent Barrett performing Romantic Notions here: