Unwritten, Unplugged & Unsigned
New York Cabaret Shows
February - April 2012
Steve Ross: Cabaret Performer
April 24, 2012
“Michael Omer’s charming, oh-so-British off-hand, chatty manner belies a formidable talent to which we were privy at his show recently. He began with one of his own compositions for the piano - jazz in feel but a real song without words in its bold lyricism.
A very clever duet with himself (“budget cuts”) on the haunting “Barcelona” from Sondheim’s “Company.” Omer’s strong and versatile baritone/soprano voice was (were) up to the task. Not only the playing and singing but his gift for clever, social observance made his “Original Song” (a bit of Flanders & Swann mixed in with Dave Frishberg, whom he sang as well) a delight.”
Danielle Miceli, Cabaret Scenes
CABARET SCENES - March 4, 2012
Unwritten, Unplugged & Unsigned
Metropolitan Room, New York, NY
British singer and songwriter Michael Omer presented a wonderful and varied evening, with his own work and more, including selections from his CD, Unwritten, Unplugged & Unsigned, at the Metropolitan Room. One interesting aspect of the show that sets it apart is that he included purely instrumental pieces. Omer’s talents were immediately apparent when, at the top of the show, he played his first such composition, “Stars and Spires.” Not only is he adept at playing the piano, but the jazz melody was catchy and uplifting. His other instrumentals were “The Journey Begins” and “No American Beauty,” both darker than “Stars,” but equally appealing.
Omer’s songs are mostly fun. The thoughtful and witty “Mr. McGee” is about a man’s obsession with his therapist (“For $400, he’ll be everybody’s friend”). Two numbers are about writing songs: “How Do You Get an Idea?” gave some insight into the songwriter’s thoughts regarding his own profession (“How do you get an idea for a song?/ Nothing too flashy or cheesy/ Is it divine inspiration?”). Then there was the “Original Song” concept; Omer included a section on plagiarism while playing a few phrases of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s melody of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.” “Why a Dancer?” is the one serious number added to the mix, a beautifully written tale of one whose body is developing into something too womanly and, therefore, she has to give up her career. The haunting lyrics included: “She used to be a dancer with silver satin shoes/Now all she has are memories.”
As for the material written by others, Omer’s rendition of “Barcelona” (Stephen Sondheim, Company) was hilarious, and he displayed his sense of humor by singing both the male and female parts, raising his voice for the latter, saying that he was being forced to sing both parts because of “budget cuts” and that everyone should “just blame Obama” for it. Many in the audience chuckled. It was a charming and endearing performance. In Samantha and Dave Frishberg’s “Blizzard of Lies,” which lists the many types of white lies people tell in social situations (“We must have lunch real soon... Your secret is safe with me... This is a real good deal”), Omer really sent home the lyrics with his smooth baritone. “Dienda” (Kenny Kirkland and Sting) was an appealing lullaby, with lyrics like “I was drawn to a sound that the wind carried down from an open window pane.” As I listened to Omer’s skillful piano playing and novel instrumental songs, I reflected on the idea that it would be nice to hear these wafting through an open window while walking down the street.
He ended the proceedings with what he called an instant “Micro-Musical,” where he took plot suggestions, random names and locations from the audience, creating and performing a short impromptu musical. It was a funny, modern-day story about Cinderella falling in love with a woman named Stella. The results elicited much laughter and applause, showing Omer’s sharp improvisational skills. His songs are original, his humor intelligent, and his charm effervescent.
Joe Regan Jr., Times Square Chronicles
Michael Omer at The Metropolitan Room: March 4, 2012
British jazz pianist, cabaret singer, and award winning composer Michael Omer made his United States cabaret debut at the Metropolitan Room on February 26 and March 4 this year. Omer has released a wonderful new CD entitled Unwritten, UNPLUGGED & Unsigned, (ten improvised masterpieces for piano) which consists of ten compositions improvised in the recording studio and recorded in one take. Omer is a graduate of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and his music has been heard in many of London’s major concert halls. Omer performed regularly at London’s legendary Pizza on the Park and is now a regular artist at the Pheasantry in London. “Music to Picture” is a source of inspiration and he composed “Mulholland Drive” depicting David Hockney’s epic 1980’s painting. Except for three songs indicated below, all the words and music at the Metropolitan Room were originals by Omer.
Omer, a rugged handsome man, strode to the piano before he was announced and then proceeded to play “Stars and Spires,” an original from the CD. Most of his act was done at the piano where he played wonderful jazz arrangements even though they were basically improvised on the spot. Omer never plays any piece the same way. He would occasionally stand stage center and do introductory patter, all of it illuminating, informative, and sometimes wryly funny in a very British dry humor. He did not waste any time expressing his admiration for Stephen Sondheim, but his tribute was not one of the ballads that most cabaret singers do, but both parts of the comic duet “Barcelona” from Company, changing voices instantly when he sang April’s lyrics and Bobby’s lyrics, and he even managed the yawn payoff “Oh... God!”
Several originals followed: “The Journey Begins” from the CD, “Mr. Magee” which he did with an American accent, “How Do You Get an Idea,” an unwritten number until that night, “No American Beauty,” another instrumental from the CD.
Omer’s second tribute song was the rare “(Marooned in a) Blizzard of Lies” by Dave & Samantha Frishberg, a rueful torch song about the change of seasons from autumn to winter. A definite highlight of the performance was Omer’s rendition of “Dienda,” an instrumental by Kenny Kirkland to which Sting wrote the lyrics. Two more original compositions with music and lyrics by Omer were “Why A Dancer” and “I Can’t Remember Names.”
Like Ann Hampton Calloway, a regular feature of Omer’s act is something composed on the spot from suggestions from the audience. However, this section is entitled “Micro Musical” and he takes suggestions for a full scale stage musical’s plot elements and characters; his improvisations are very funny, with amazing plot twists and character quirks. Additionally, when Omer sits down at the piano, his playing is almost symphonic. It’s a real thrill to see Michael Omer work the crowd and demonstrate his genius improvisational skills, musically and lyrically.
Omer’s delightful encore was something about styles in music, noting that “so many songs begin in the key of C” and “sing me an original song.”
Cabaret fans will have another opportunity to see Michael Omer’s wonderful talent on Friday, April 13 and April 20 at Don’t Tell Mama, 343 West 46 Street. Don’t miss him! It’s a thrill to see him here. Both shows at 7 p.m. Call (212) 757-0788 for reservations. For a sample of his unique talent there is a wonderful five minute documentary video with excerpts from a Pizza in the Park engagement. www.michaelomer.com
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