Craig Rubano: Take the Moment – Indelible

Craig Rubano emerges from the back of the club like a recollected dream. “Take the Moment” (Richard Rodgers/Stephen Sondheim), he sings, “Or the moment will have passed.” Richness of sound is almost startling. It’s been ten years since the artist performed a full length show. My own memories feature a superb voice and awareness of lyrics. What presents tonight is enthralling. Either memory has faded or Rubano has undergone a kind of second coming.

In an evening about his life to date the vocalist embodies affirmative faith by which one can’t help but be moved. The performer doesn’t proselytize, he exemplifies. “I got a couple of degrees, a couple of new titles. I wrote a book, found love, but also experienced profound loss.” “Everything Must Change” (Bernard Ighner) arrives with bowed bass as ballast. The arrangement is beautiful, penetrating. We hear pain, transition, and wisdom. He shares.

His family relocated to South America when Rubano was very young. The first musical he saw was a Spanish production of Man of La Mancha. A bilingual rendition of “The Impossible Dream” is wrenching, at the same time desperate and joyful. Piano swirls and tangos. Vocal punctures the air. (Mitch Leigh/ Joe Darion/Spanish Lyrics Carlos Viniegra).

The young man’s dream was Broadway. New York Followed Yale. Naysayers are personified by “Everybody Says Don’t” (Stephen Sondheim). Shoulders jerk back, chin rises. Eyes flare with determination. Enunciation is biting. Cast as Marius in Les Miserables, “My PhD – in literature – would have to wait.” The theme to which he returns on this journey is being one’s authentic self. With the musical’s Café Song, “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” the artist excavates colors of anger and frustration. (Claude-Michel Schonberg-English Lyrics- Herbert Kretzmer).

“DON’T TELL ME IT’S DIFFERENT NOW!” he cries, fist pounding air (Gary Geld/Peter Udell- “I’ve Heard It All Before” from Shenandoah.) Here’s the private loss to which he referred.

Suddenly quiet, “We Can Be Kind” (David Friedman) and “Ordinary Miracles” (Marvin Hamlisch/ Alan and Marilyn Bergman) blanket the room with a humble plea. Everyone here is in love with him now. Sometimes revelation comes slow. Rubano moved to the country in New Jersey to study for the ministry. (Last week he secured an additional degree in Pastoral Theology.)Two songs featuring goats provide levity.

“If you had told me I’d end up the Universalist Minister of a congregation in Monmouth, New Jersey – you have to have a sense of wonder,” he muses. A car accident left Rubano badly maimed and wondering whether he’d sing again. “Wick” (Lucy Simon/Marsha Norman), from The Secret Garden, finds Dicken telling Mary the garden was not, in fact, dead, that beneath the brown and grey was green. Exultation imprints the heart.

“Perhaps I didn’t include this on my CD because I wasn’t ready,” prefaces the Jerry Herman anthem “I Am What I Am” – expansive, proud, elated. On its heels, comes “Before the Parade Passes By,” entwined with “Take the Moment.” Pivotal feelings are internal. Fists morph to open palms as Rubano submits, but I missed the defiance that would have come from eye contact. A song to his new love (he tells the story) ends the show: “And when all those people believe in you/…It stands to reason, You yourself will start to see what everybody sees in you/And maybe even you/Can believe in you too…” (Just One Person”- Larry Grossman/Hal Hackaday). The room collectively sighs.

A virtuoso evening by a man with extraordinary talent and a diffident, valuable message.

Arrangements and musicianship are original, bespoke and splendidly rendered. Direction is a perfect reflection of the performer.

Craig Rubano: Take the Moment
Directed by Jeff Harnar
MD/Piano- Beth Ertz
Jeffrey Carney-Bass

REPEATED May 19, June 12

The Laurie Beechman Theater at West Bank Café
407 West 42nd Street

About Alix Cohen (1751 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of ten New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, TheaterLife, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.