Monday, January 19, 2009


Dressed in a loud autumnal-colored flowery shirt and tight yellow pants and backed by 3 powerhouse singers reminiscent of the Mamas and the Papas, STEVE GIDEON opened his splashy new cabaret show The Happening at The Canyon Club in Agoura Hills on Wednesday, January 21 to an intimate and very enthusiastic audience.
I have admired Gideon as an actor/singer since the 90s when I first saw him in Naked Boys Singing and Marry Me a Little. His spark truly lit up that little Sondheim show (reconceived for 2 gay males) and made it cook. I must admit that I would rather see him in a musical play than on the cabaret stage. But, the pleasant surprise in this singing gig (there are other performances scheduled at different venues around town) is his fierce commitment to and love of this material. 60s and 70s music has soul; it's an actor's dream. And Gideon's wildly colorful exuberance and drive certainly put a unique spin on it. "Aquarius" moved him, moved through him and as a result, engaged us in active hand clapping, gyrating and even sing-along. I know I enjoyed myself! A Jimmy Webb song became more than just a familiar tune; it was like listening to a poem with newly discovered nuances of meaning. A perfect example was "Wichita Lineman" which I fondly remembered only because of Glen Campbell; with Gideon's clean interpretation, I really listened to the lyrics and reveled for the first time in the songwriting.
Other highlights in the 75 minute set include Joni Mitchell's beautiful "Chelsea Morning", Billy Joel's "Summer Highland Falls", Laura Nyro's infectious"Son of a Preacherman" - one of Gideon's best deliveries - James Taylor's lovely "Shower the People" - another great moment for Gideon, Elton John's "Tiny Dancer", the Beatles' "I Will" and Paul Simon's "America".
Another rich part of this show - apart from the performers - is that it's sort of a laid-back, easy to digest historical look at the 60s and 70s and how music changed through the decades. Gideon calls Simon & Garfunkel the Currier & Ives on acid and proceeds to show that from 1968 ("America") to 1973 ("American Tune") serious issues in history like the Matin Luther King assassination and the moon landing affected the composition of music in both tone and texture. The fun part of this show within its limited patter is defining -via a Hippie dictionary - the catch phrases of the period, like happening, groovy, ya' dig?, tab and flower power.
The backup Happeningettes - Minta Mullins, Tod Macofsky and Evelyn Halus (a much slimmer Mama Cass - but with an equally pure golden set of pipes) are delightful to watch and hear, so delightful in fact, that I wish we would hear a little more solo - and combo singing from them! Musicians are wonderful as well: music director Jeff Colella at piano, Kirk Smith on bass, Rod Harbour on drums and Jumpin' Jack Madjecki on guitar - he really sets that ample stage ablaze.
We had a totally cool happening!
Look for the show at the M Bar on January 30!
And don't forget Steve Gideon's solo CD Feels Like Home which you may purchase after the show!
As for Michael Sterling and his second venue Broadway in Concert at the Canyon as a regular weekly Wednesday night feature - the first being his Sterling's Upstairs at Vitello's on the weekend - what more can I say? You're the greatest for spreading cabaret to the west end of the San Fernando Valley!
Food at The Canyon Club is superb. I had a succulent Rib Eye - choice of steak, salmon or lemon caper chicken - served with the most unusually delicious garlic mashed potatoes and mixed veggies, tasty salad and smooth chocolate cake for dessert. It's a great meal and show in an ambiance that reminded me of the House of the Blues (same designer, I'm told!) for a bargain of a price. Call for the package price and reservations at 818-879-5016, or check Ticketmaster and be sure to visit:
The Canyon Club
28912 Roadside Drive
Agoura Hills
Every Wednesday is booked through February!
Next up: TV actor Geoffrey Going on January 28, followed by Adam Simmons on February 4.
Post Note: So saddened by Steve Gideon's passing from us on May 1, 2009. He was a fine entertainer whose contributions to the gay world of entertainment will never be overlooked. He proposed the concept for the gay version of Marry Me a Little, which Stephen Sondheim later approved!


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