‘Sam Bendrix:’ a theatrical experience worth catchingOnline Only, Entertainment News Wednesday, October 10th, 2012
TOM ANDREW reviews Sam Bendrix at the Bon Soir at Martinis Above Fourth
La Jolla Playhouse’s Without Walls Productions is currently presenting Sam Bendrix at the Bon Soir at Martinis Above Fourth. The show, which plays more like an after-show cabaret, is getting its San Diego premiere and the combination of an upstairs restaurant/bar/club atmosphere coupled with a jazz singer and his trio fits like a glove.
Cabaret-style is something of a lost art. Sure, it still exists in New York City, if you know where to go, and you can see decent cabaret artists in Chicago and Los Angeles, but rarely anywhere else.
True cabaret is about storytelling through music, lyrics and banter; seeing and hearing the heart and soul of the performer on stage, bare and fully exposed.
Luke Macfarlane’s Sam Bendrix is that cabaret performer.
He gets himself booked at the Bon Soir to do the one thing he came to New York to do… sing. Sure, maybe the fact that he is a regular bartender at the Bon Soir helped him get the gig, but who cares? He takes his chance and through the songs of Kurt Weill, George Gershwin and Cole Porter, he tells us his story.
It’s a story most of us may think we have heard before, but Bendrix’s tale has a few unexpected twists and turns.
Bendrix pushes himself, his band and the audience into corners that he didn’t think he was ready to expose, but with the right amount of alcohol, heartbreak and guts, he does.
Macfarlane, (best known as Scotty in the recently cancelled ABC drama Brothers and Sisters), croons with a voice reminiscent of Harry Connick Jr., and plays the part of Bendrix with just the right mix of cockiness, sensitivity and fear.
His Bendrix takes the stage at the Bon Soir like he’s been doing it for years, but when his stories start to take on a more personal tone, he stumbles and shows us, ever so slightly, his fear and vulnerability as he navigates unchartered territory.
That fear only draws the audience in to wanting more. Think about it. Who wouldn’t give an arm and a leg to have heard Garland completely ripped and singing “The Man Who Got Away”?
Drama, heart, soul, raw and exposed. Cabaret.
Keith Bunin’s script, along with Mark Rucker’s direction, makes you feel like you are at the Bon Soir witnessing a real cabaret. Nothing heavy handed, just great jazz standards and some unknown gems perfectly weaved into the fabric of Sam Bendrix’s story.
The Bendrix trio (Charlie Reuter-piano, Danny King-drums, Kevin Cooper-bass) never falter. They musically follow Bendrix, as any good trio should, from beginning to end.
La Jolla Playhouse started their Without Walls series a few years ago, pushing the boundaries and expectations of what audiences think theater should be. It’s nice to see them working outside of their comfort zones and stepping outside of that box to bring San Diego audiences something that is not only theatrical, but part of performance history.
Martinis also steps up to the challenge, offering a quiet, respectful room for patrons, serving decent food and both sweet and dirty drinks up to the performance and after, but not during.
If you’ve never been to a cabaret performance (or even if you have), do yourself a favor, and head to Martinis on Fourth, grab a martini and see Sam Bendrix at the Bon Soir. It’s a theatrical experience worth catching.
Sam Bendrix at the Bon Soir, a limited engagement, opened Sept. 24 and was recently extended through Oct. 17. For ticket information visit martinisabovefourth.com/sam-bendrix, or lajollaplayhouse.org/sam-bendrix
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