In the olden days ("Tell us great-grandfather") there was vaudeville, where young performers could cut their teeth, playing on the various circuits all around the country. So where do emerging singers and comedians get their time before an audience in this strangest of all eras? Of course there's the web, but tweeting responses or comments below a YouTube video do not in my opinion constitute a flesh and blood audience--those hearty folk who make an effort to move their bodies into a performance space, and let a singer or comedian know in no uncertain terms if they've "got it."
Handsomely patrician actor, Nathan Armstrong took it upon himself to create a venue in which the energy and exuberance of those on the quest for stardom can indeed show what they go -- in abundance. On the Spot is a weekly Monday night presentation in which singers and an improv ensemble have the opportunity to confirm that they have the capacity to entertain a live audience, with vibrant vocal renditions and the hilarious high jinks of spirited and inventive improv.
The format of the evening is simple. After a brief greeting from Nathan Armstrong, the show commences with a singer, then an improv sequence. Singers and improv alternate for the two hour duration of the presentation with a brief intermission. The show concludes with all joining in for a final uplifting sendoff number. The high energy and intensity of the performances never lagged, and the audience was wowed by each and every player. The singers change from show to show, and the improv group members appear as a group, week to week. The night I attended the singers included: Janine Berensen, Dana K. Brown, Alex Kidder, Amelia Lang-Wallace, and Brian Falduto. It was easy to see that each of these vocalists was enormously prepared. One could tell they were committed performers -- nothing casual nor slapdash here. Each singer displayed the poise and presence of an authentic professional. Ms. Berensen sang "Pulled" from The Adams Family Musical and "Reflection" from Disney’s Mulan. Ms. Brown favored the audience with "Journey to the Past" from Anastasia and “With You”. Ms. Kidder let out with David Friedman's "Nothing in Common" from Listen to My Heart and “Just Keep Moving” from the TV musical series Smash. Each of these singers have completely mastered the "contemporary voice" which make them prime candidates for The Great White Way.
Amelia Lang-Wallace and Brian Falduto are performers of the "here and now," with the added element of old-time out-there showmanship. Ms. Lang-Wallace's rendition of Michael Koorman and Christopher Dimond’s “Random Black Girl” was something of a show stopper. When Ms. Lang-Wallace takes the stage, you know she’s up to something -- something brassy, and she delivers big time. Her cover of “On Monday” was something to behold. Brian Falduto displayed both his ability to be soulful and melancholy, and outrageously ridiculous. When he sang Willie Nelson's “You Were Always on my Mind,” his sincerity coupled with the extraordinary timber of his voice, engaged the audience for an intimate listening. His voice possesses resonances of the glorious sound of Glen Yarbrough, the unique lead singer of the folk group The Limeliters, who later charted with his solo hit “Baby the Rain Must Fall.” When singing “I’m Not That Smart” from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Mr. Falduto embodied the comic tradition of the great comedian Sid Caesar to great effect: the more ridiculous you are, the more serious you need to be about it.
The improv ensemble featured Patrick Reidy, Chris Catalano, Meg Reilly, Andrew Del Vecchio, and Andy Scannell. This quick-witted group played improv at its best. At one moment, there was the spontaneous drinking of melted candle wax, something of a holy sacrament, which took “anything for a laugh” to new heights of bravery.
Touché to Nathan Armstrong and his crew for producing On the Spot. What a prime opportunity to hear and see what young performers at their best can do! - Jay Reisberg
Mr. Reisberg is a UCLA film school grad, professional singer, comedian, and bon vivant at large.