Seth Sikes Sings Judy, Liza, Barbra, Etc.
There’s no other way to say it...Seth Sikes is a star! From the moment he took the stage at Feinstein’s/54 Below, he owned the crowd. Opening with a lighthearted medley of “We’re In The Money/Pennies From Heaven,” - including a wonderfully weird Pig-Latin verse, done originally by Ginger Rogers, he showed off his clear, strong tenor with it’s pleasantly wavering vibrato, and made us all feel as though he were serenading us in his living room.
Sikes loves his divas - Judy, Liza, Bernadette Peters, Streisand - and his vocal style is clearly influenced by Garland, but while many of his past shows have been tributes to these great ladies of song, this special Gay Pride performance was also about love. He gave us an ebullient “Almost Like Being In Love,” which featured a very Garland-esque modulation, followed by the first in a series of Letters Home - charming, sometimes bittersweet letters to Mom, telling her of his career, his adventures in the city, and most of all, his love life. In the first missive, he confesses that he probably loves his new boyfriend more than the boyfriend loves him, which led into a touching “Maybe This Time.”
His second letter home told of yet another heartbreak and the hope that a new man would get him over that loss, reflected in the lovely “Time Heals Everything,” from Mack & Mabel, and while there was a tiny stumble over a lyric, the emotional strength he gave the number still made it a winner. His next letter followed him through several different boyfriends, and the sadness that came from always looking for “the one,” after which he gave us an emotional rendition of “My Man,” made popular by Barbra Streisand in the film of Funny Girl.
Finally, in his fourth letter, he resolved to go it on his own, not be in such a rush, and take his time finding the right partner, which brought us a stirring “Plenty of Time,” by Kander and Ebb.
Sikes dedicated the rest of the evening to Judy, so in a sense, we actually got two shows. We got hit after hit, like “Get Happy,” “Rock-a-bye Your Baby,” and “The Man That Got Away,’ where his phrasing echoed Garland’s, belting out ‘...it’s all a crazy game!’ as if the woman herself had taken over his body. He closed out the Garland section with a sweet, simple version of Noel Coward’s “If Love Were All,” which was just perfection.
I should emphasize that while his divas’ influences on his vocals are quite clear, Sikes never veered into impersonation or parody. Yes, there were some more-Judy-than-Judy moments, as when he asked the crowd to ‘sing along if you know it,’ during “The Trolley Song,” which brought to mind a similar request during Garland’s famous Carnegie Hall concert, and I also noticed Sikes’ tendency to unconsciously play with his hair, doing what I’ve labeled the “Judy hair-grab.” But these vocal and physical mannerisms never distracted; rather Sikes owned them and used them to their best advantage, and the audience rewarded him with a full-house standing ovation!
While thanking everyone, in a moment of unabashed honesty, Sikes said ‘Whether or not you liked me, you’ve got to admit, these songs are fucking great!’ No need to worry - Seth Sikes is undeniably likable and ridiculously talented!
Seth Sikes will be appearing at The Crown and Anchor, in Provincetown, MA, on August 8th. For info, go to www.onlyatthecrown.com.
Billy Lykken - Sacred Monster
Looking fabulous in a fuchsia faux fur, with a bare chest, and drag-like makeup, Billy Lykken cut quite the androgynous figure during his special gay Pride show at the Metropolitan Room. But this show was about more than a look. Lykken has created a character; a Sacred Monster - his term for the gay icons he worshipped as he was growing up. This persona mixed Bette Midler’s humor, Eartha Kitt’s brash sexiness, a touch of Julie Andrews’ vulnerability, and Barbara Stanwyk’s melodrama, all filtered through Lykken’s own distinctive personality.
Opening with Scissor Sisters’ Filthy/Gorgeous, he taunted the audience playfully, with lyrics like ‘You’re filthy and I’m gorgeous, you’re disgusting and you’re nasty, and you can grab me, ‘cause you’re nasty.’ It was a fun, energetic way to set the tone for Pride weekend.
Ditching the coat and changing into a sleek white sequined jacket, he gave us a heartfelt rendition of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car,” which he dedicated to all the outsiders - the song promising ‘...things will get better.’ Continuing the gay pride theme, we got Nina Simone’s riveting “Mississippi Goddam,” a plea for equality especially appropriate in this age of Trump!
Lykken’s sad, soulful performance of Aretha Franklin’s “Ain’t No Way” proved to be one of the best moments in the show, setting the stage for a sort of mini-musical about the search for love, wherein he donned a long black kimono, sat atop the piano and gave us a sweet rendition of “Poor Butterfly,” complete with beautiful fan work and a handsome dancing sailor, who woos him, yet leaves him.
Still, Lykken’s monster proved a hopeful creature, so he was next joined by Rick Skye as Liza Minnelli, for a joyous “Hooray For Love” medley, a big crowd pleaser.
The final portion of the evening took a rather film noir turn, using songs like Rogers and Hart’s “You Are Too Beautiful,” and an Amy Winehouse hit called “I Heard Love is Blind,” delivered with torch song gusto, followed by Madonna’s “Living for Love” and Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together,” to paint a melodramatic portrait of love lost, getting past the heartbreak, and ultimately getting that love back.
While I enjoyed Sacred Monster thoroughly, the show could use a bit of polish here and there. Lykken had some pitch issues, which I’m sure will resolve themselves with more experience. Also, the show itself felt a little disjointed - there was a lack of cohesion binding the various segments of the show. All in all, however, the show drips with style and fabulousness - Rick Skye’s direction was smooth and always interesting, and the musical support by Marco Panascia on bass, Simon Fishburn on drums, and piano accompaniment by Musical Director Yasuhiko Fukuoka (whose excellent work I’m seeing more and more of these days) was solid.
Lykken wrapped up the evening with “Believe in Yourself,” from The Wiz, telling the audience that he had been afraid to do a show of his own, but he followed his dream, fought his fears, and brought us this lovely show. It’s clear that Billy Lykken has a lot of talent in which to believe!