Don't be surprised if you leave Robin De Jesus's cabaret, "Crush to Crushed," with a little crush of your own.
On the performer.
De Jesus, who's performing twice this week in downtown Orlando, has the normal attributes that make someone crush-worthy: the dimples, the million-dollar smile. But he also exudes an energy that means no matter how many times he mischievously insists "It gets better," you can't help but think "It's already pretty darn good."
In his peppy, entertaining show, Broadway actor De Jesus considers the travails of love. It's a road that has been traveled by many a cabaret singer before — but I have never heard such a cheerful ditty about stalking at any other show.
De Jesus, a two-time Tony nominee for roles in "In the Heights" and "La Cage aux Folles," has enough charm to sell "To Excess," an ode to stalkers everywhere. "If it's a crime to take some pictures of a girl/In various states of undress/Then I guess I am guilty/Of loving you to excess," he sings, winkingly daring the audience to laugh with him.
He deftly mocks teenage angst while peppering a cover of Britney Spears' insipid "Dear Diary" with actual emotion and vocal skills. As a bonus, he adds a surprise treat for Broadway fans at the song's end.
It's not all fun and games, though, and the more serious tunes give a better appreciation of De Jesus's vocal abilities. His tenor is impressive, whether breathily lighter than air or focused and full. He doesn't need to rely on vibrato to hit full belting mode.
"Corre," a Spanish-language pop song by Jessie y Joy, is full of emotion, even if you don't understand the words. A cover of Sara Bareilles' "Manhattan," about a romantic breakup, is moving.
Yet the mood can't stay down for long.
With head bopping to the beat, he flies through a funky "Hate on Me." He wins a roar of approval for what is surely the most adult sing-along I've ever been part of. To put it in words suitable for a family newspaper, the song is a plea to communicate with your lover about what, um, makes you happy.
"You kinky little freaks," he teases the audience afterward. "You liked that."
De Jesus is backed by a not-too-intrusive three-piece band. Music director Michael Moritz and percussionist Brian LaGuardia, who also accompanied Norbert Leo Butz during his Orlando cabaret, are steadying presences. They are joined by Adam DeAscentis on the bass.
Unlike Butz's cabaret, which took place on The Abbey's main stage, De Jesus's show is in the upstairs performance space called The Mezz. There's still some work to be done to fine-tune the acoustics there — a peculiar echo was occasionally distracting. Flashing screens on either side of the stage, displaying an endless loop of Abbey/Mezz logos, provided unwanted visual distraction.
But the brightest light on stage was clearly De Jesus.
'Crush to Crushed'
• What: Cabaret with Robin De Jesus
• When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6
• Where: The Mezz, 100 S. Eola Drive, Orlando
• Cost: $25, $60 VIP
• Call: 407-704-6261
• Online: abbeyorlando.comCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun