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Cabaret Review (LA): Dan Frishman with the Ben Armentano Big Band at Sterling’s Upstairs at Vitello’s

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Sterling’s Upstairs at Vitello’s surprised me with a very different kind of act on May 15. Dan Frischman has had a career playing oddballs, geeks, and nerds on various television shows, most notably as Arvid Engen in Head of the Class and Chris Potter in the Nickelodeon series Kenan and Kel which was a spin-off of that network’s All That. When he wasn’t working he made ends meet by performing magic, most notably at children’s parties. Since then he has gone on to become a produced playwright, a screenwriter, and a successful author, having recently written a novel, Johnson and Jenks, about aspiring magicians who get their powers from a supernatural event. This diversity is also present in his act, which he performed at Sterling’s, normally home to young aspiring singers (and a place to get some great food).

His act was a sort of mishmash of all sorts of things, expressing his varied interests. We got a little magic, some trombone playing (he learned in high school), some original songs (“Whatever Happened To Me” was an imitation of Tom Waits selling garden seeds ala the Cookie Monster meets Mr. Ed). Frischman has the ability to do some very fast talking, and incorporated that into this number as well as into a Yiddish song from his youth, the classic “Rumania Rumania.” He ended by singing what he called his anthem, a song called “Cherry Poppin’ Daddy Strut.”

Frischman brought with him some musicians from Ben Armentano’s Big Band, including Armentano as musical director from the piano, Chris Pinnick on guitar, Lynn Keller on bass, Greg Burnham on drums, Eitan Avieneri on trumpet, and Steve Catalano on sax and clarinet. Mitch Lewis and Lani Shipman were his backup singers on a couple of numbers and Ms. Shipman sang a solo. Shipman has a truly lovely voice and I would like to see more of her.

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