There was no spinning chair and no toll-free number on which to call and vote, but by the time John Thyen had belted out the final notes of the song “Home” (from Broadway’s The Wiz), he’d already proven himself a winner. As an added bonus, he had the kind of story audiences love, having moved from Indiana to the big, bad city only five months earlier. He could have been a reality-show contestant or a character on SMASH… but instead of millions of people watching his performance on television, he was singing to room of about 40 people.
And he was clearly loving every minute of it.
So was Florida transplant DeOnzell Green, who put her heart and soul into the tune “The Masquerade Is Over”, and John Ratterman, who took to the cabaret stage for the first time in six years to show his singing (and acting) chops with “I Can’t Be In Love.”
The occasion was Seth’s Talent Showcase, a weekly event at New York City’s cabaret hot spot, Don’t Tell Mama’s, where six people as talented as they are undiscovered stormed the stage to strut their stuff.
And as I sat there watching these unknowns do something I’d never, ever have the nerve — let alone talent — to do, I couldn’t help but be caught up in the awesomeness that is a live performance.
Not live on television or taped before a live studio audience, but so live that if the performer wanted to they could spit in your eye. The kind of live that happens every week in just about every town across the country… if one takes the time to look for it.
I sometimes fear that we’ve become so comfortable ensconced on our couches watching shows like AMERICAN IDOL or THE VOICE that we forgo actually leaving our houses to seek out, you know, actual, real, live entertainment. Because that would involve getting dressed (maybe even up) and driving and at least basic social interaction and, really, who wants that when we can sit at home in our pajamas and not only have people sing for us but also have others tell us what we think about those performances of pre-approved-for-the-masses songs.
But chances are that you’re not going to see anyone perform “Finishing The Hat” — let alone with the earnest heart of Adam Ioele — on AMERICAN IDOL. And we’re willing to bet that ABC’s upcoming DUETS won’t feature anything nearly as funny as Thyen and Sean Elias’ take on Book Of Mormon’s “You And Me, But Mostly Me.” And there’s no chance in hell it’ll be as balls-to-the-walls fun as Christie Dabreau’s ode to secret crushes everywhere, “Sing, But Don’t Tell” or host Seth Bisen-Hersh’s tribute to undersexed straight men, “If Only.”
Because as much as we love TV (and, come on, look at the name of the site!), sometimes, there’s no substitute for the real thing.
Richard M. Simms is the executive editor of Soaps In Depth magazine and the author of Crimes Against Civility.