Brett Ryback is one of my favorite young performers. His versatility is astounding. I first saw him in a production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, where he played Leaf Connybear and nearly stole the show. Next I saw him at South Coast Repertory Theatre in a strange little play called Doctor Cerberus, in which he played a disturbed young man. Not long after that I actually auditioned for a show he wrote, Liberty Inn, for which he won an Ovation Award for his music.
So I thought I was beginning to get a bead on this actor when he showed up, upside down and buff, as an Irish rebel in the Lieutenant of Inishmore. This certainly wasn’t Connybear, which was the name I referred to him up until Inishmore. On September 17th Brett presented (in his own words) “an elegant evening of troublemaking, immaturity, and kid-play featuring music from the Millennial Generation of Composers, including himself.”
The performance had to be one of the most original evenings I had seen in cabaret theatre. Brett displayed his versatility as well as an impish personality. Just to throw us all off he began his concert with Chopin’s Waltz in D-Flat Major. He played it flawlessly. The rest of the evening was as promised, a real smorgasbord of styles and sentiments.
Especially interesting were the songs he composed to go with songs written by children. He also gave us a feel for a new musical he is writing called Joe Schmoo Saves The World. The theme of the evening started to emerge, honor the child within and don’t thwart his impulses. The highlight of the evening for me was his rendition, on a uke, of Sondheim’s “Children Will Listen.” A thoroughly entertaining, surprising evening. All I can say is “Go ahead Bret, keep giving the world your talent and you just might save it.” Brett Ryback performed at Sterling’s Upstairs at The Federal on September 17th.