“When you dance, you’re charming and you’re gentle”
The Floor Above Me was a successful summer ’14 cabaret show for US actor, singer and dancer Tony Yazbeck, whose profile subsequently rocketed after his Tony-nominated turn in On The Town which opened later that year. He’s reprised the show a couple of times since then and it has now been immortalised on record. In some ways, it’s a slightly odd choice as Yazbeck is a genuine triple threat and this was a show designed to show that off. So there’s tap-dancing segments aplenty, including a special tap-dancing guest in Melinda Sullivan, which in all honesty just doesn’t necessarily come off too well when listening to it.
Proving that the art of cabaret is a highly skilled one, his in-between songs patter lacks the vibrancy to really engage the audience outwith the club though. In person, one can imagine his sincere charm and understated passion coming across really well but here, it just ends up sapping pace and breaking the mood of the record. And the humble schtick about finding the girl of his dreams and being a performer born in the wrong era doesn’t really grab you, especially as his song choices don’t always necessarily reflect that professed notion.
Jazz-inflected Jamie Cullum tracks (‘Nothing I Do’) thus pull away from the main strengths of Yazbeck’s singing, which seems to be softly traditional in its love of the Great American Songbook. And the CD’s highlights come in classics like ‘Moses Supposes’ (a duet with On The Town co-star Clyde Alves) and a sprightly ‘Cheek to Cheek’ – nothing too outstanding but consummately performed. An era-spanning mash-up of ‘Dance Me to the End of Love’ and ‘I Won’t Dance’ shows a rare flash of inspiration but I suspect this was a show best seen rather than heard.