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Cabaret Review (LA): Finishing The Hat with Matthew McFarland at Sterling’s Upstairs at Vitello’s

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On the eve of his 21st birthday Matthew McFarland delivered quite a satisfying show on October 16th at Sterling’s Upstairs at Vitello’s. Matthew had been a finalist in Michael Sterling’s now annual competition held at the beginning of the year called “LA’s Next Great Stage Star.” His status was well deserved. McFarland claimed to be nervous throughout the evening but it didn’t seem to affect his soaring voice.

What his nervousness did affect sometimes were the preambles to some of the songs, where he over-introduced a number, explaining his “connection“ with each piece, instead of letting the listener have his or her own experience with the song. While McFarland’s nerves may have at times distracted, his competence and humor in the face of these nerves was a source of endearment. One of his friends calls him “fearless” and though McFarland denies the description, his musical choices displayed a man with conviction and courage. He mentioned that at several times in his life he wanted to throw over his desire to sing and perform, putting himself down and not respecting his talent. Hopefully this birthday will begin to put a damper on such inclinations.

McFarland was also fearless in his choice of material. None of it was easy. He began with a soaring rendition of “Something’s Coming” from West Side Story, a show he had starred in as Tony in high school. He has a strong, clear voice that easily accommodated the occasional wail, which never grated the ear unlike some of his contemporaries. He showed an affinity with the music of Steven Sondheim (a lovely “What Can You Lose” and the ballads of Jason Robert Brown’s “Moving Too Fast” from The Last Five Years and “I Could Be in

Love with Someone Like You” which was superb.

He was also ferocious enough to choose several songs that were love songs sung to a man, displaying deep feeling and sensitivity. I only hope as he matures he finds more contentment in his emotional life. He has great talent and charm and his future looks bright. He certainly has supportive friends and family.

One of the highlights of the evening was a duet he sung with his beautiful mother, Christine McFarland, “Moving On” fromSunday in the Park With George followed by a birthday presentation of all the t-shirts from shows he had been in since the age of eight, made into a gorgeous quilt by his family members. I look forward to further developments in this promising career.

Matthew McFarland performed at Sterling’s Upstairs at Vitello on October 16th.

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