Sterling’s Upstairs at Vitello’s has become the primary testing ground for musical comedy talent who want to spread their wings in cabaret. Many of the performers I have seen here are known quantities in musical comedy in Los Angeles and here they try out their new acts in this more intimate and demanding space.
Many have confessed that there is a vast difference between stage work and supper club act. In the theatre they are acting a part and have a full cast and orchestra to support them, but at Sterling’s they can rely only on a piano plus occasionally a guitar, or someone they share the bill with; ultimately they must rely on their own personal musical interpretations and their sense of humor. They are up there, as themselves, alone.
On Saturday, May 15th, there was a very special concert featuring Janet Krupin, the winner of "LA’s Next Great Stage Star," who had graduated the day before from U.S.C. I had seen Ms. Krupin locally in several appearances with the Musical Theatre of Los Angeles, most noticeably as Anita (she was terrific) in West Side Story. I looked forward to her concert at Sterling’s.
Ms. Krupin is enormously talented and is a triple threat: she can sing, dance, and act. She showed great showmanship and ease as she sang songs for her show Rhapsody in New. She sang several songs by Andrew Lippa from his musical Wild Party. She also performed a series of “mash-up“ numbers where songs are combined together to yield a new song. She tackled several iconic songs as seen through her lens. These included Ray Charles’ “You Don’t Know Me,” Streisand’s “Down With Love,” and Garland's “Over the Rainbow” sung in a minor key.
Though she sang them well and some of her ideas were quite interesting, I felt these songs were not a good choice for her first outing. If you sing these sorts of songs, you will be compared to the original, and almost nobody surpasses the original.
She concluded with her rendition of Jerry Herman’s lovely ballad “He won’t Send Roses” (“I won’t send Roses” from the musical Mack and Mabel). Her encore was “If I Loved You” from Carousel.
Ms. Krupin reminds me of a less vulnerable Bernadette Peters. She shows a confident stage presence and that is because she is a fine actress. I question, at this stage of her career, her feeling that she must alter lyrics, rhythms, keys. I also found that she was guilty of “American Idol singing” which means lots of wailing. The trouble is she sometimes sounded shrill in her high range. She has a very promising career ahead but hopefully she will find a vocal coach to take her to the next step.
Janet Krupin appeared at Sterling’s Upstairs at Vitello’s on May 15th.