by Margret Echeverria
It is such a pleasure to experience a cabaret performer who offers up first-time banter, warm confidence, a voice with genuine range and a willingness to take the ultimate risk – requests from the audience – because you are his instant trusted friend, even if only for the night. Erich Bergen is having a great time at The Cafe Carlyle and you should join the party. It is so good to be back after Covid shut down the cafe; the servers smile and look you right in the eye as they pull out your chair and invite you to have a cocktail. Bergen steps up onto the stage with a jazzy step to a bongo rhythm played by his drummer stolen from the band of Sesame Street. Yes, really! Bergen opens with I’m Gonna Live Until I Die. He acknowledges and names his band members in the first number, which I found to be so endearing because sharing the spotlight in that packed little room is a very generous act indeed. Michael Moritz Jr., Music Director and pianist for this production, is relaxed and goes with the improvised flow. If this show is heavily scripted, I would be very surprised. The relaxed style lets us right in.
Every lyric of Peter Allen‘s Six Thirty Sunday Morning was beautifully painted by Bergen. He told us about his early morning strolls through his native New York City during the height of the pandemic and evoked the feelings of hope and fear in all of us as he sang. I was reflecting on that song and how he sounded a little like Barry Manilow wondering if Bergen might match that level of showmanship, when Moritz left the piano and Bergen sat down. It was wonderful to hear about his days at theater camp in the Catskills and the time at the end of summer before school would start again when he would sneak into Don’t Tell Mama’s on 46th street. This girl spent her early days in NYC there, too. And then, what’s this? Bergen is taking requests and is convinced to sing Manilow’s Mandy. I cried. Bergen creates an atmosphere in which we can laugh at the silliness of life and cry for the sweet moments lost to time, or worse, stolen by this damned virus. Intimacy is welcome here, so we sing along and Bergen glows as though touched by a lover.
I have seen performers in solo shows who are so worried about singing well that their attention on possible failure creates it. Bless their hearts. Tonight, Bergen’s voice virtuosity is absolutely effortless. He can do precise impressions of the greats we all know – Jiminy Cricket, anyone? – and he adds his own delightful twists on familiar melodies without overdone affect. I was not nervous for him once. I just enjoyed him. A bonus to this performance was that Randy Rainbow was sitting right up front. “Did you like my Judy Garland bongo beat at the beginning of the show, Randy?” Bergen lowers the microphone to the YouTube mega star at the front table. “Erm . . . I’m not gay!” Rainbow said. The room hollered. What a great party. Thank you.
Erich Bergen At Cafe Carlyle, Starring Erich Bergen. Music Directed by Michael J. Moritz Jr.
For one more night only!! Saturday, May 21, 2022
The Carlyle Hotel, 35 East 76th Street, New York, NY. Get tickets here.