David Meulemans

March 24, 2016 | By | Add a Comment

David Meulemans“Lucky to Be Me” is the title of both David Meulemans’s show at the Metropolitan Room—where he is currently an “Artist in Residence”—and a CD of that show recorded live at the club. As the title suggests, the singer is the sort of guy who looks on the bright side of things. There are plenty of opportunities for him during the set to smile his wide, merry smile.

His voice is a warm, full, and polished baritone with some fine notes in the upper range. It’s a bright, reassuring sound. There likely are other hues in his vocal palette with which to paint contrasting shadows, but Meulemans doesn’t seem to care too much for darker tones—not in this show anyway.

“Lucky to Be Me” (directed and partly created by Sally Mayes) opens with a pair of Depression-era songs that latch on hungrily to the affirmative: 1936’s “Pennies from Heaven” (Arthur Johnston, Johnny Burke) and 1931’s “Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries” (Lew Brown, Ray Henderson). Dressed in a crisp white dinner jacket, Meulemans embraces the image and sounds of the suave but amiable Crosby-heyday crooner. There are songs from later eras in his set list also, but the entire program seems stamped with a 1930s brand of American optimism. The big finish is an ambitious medley of “luck” songs, ranging from Kander and Ebb’s “How Lucky Can You Get” (missing the biting irony that riddled the song in the film Funny Lady) to Guys and Dolls‘s “Luck Be a Lady” (Frank Loesser) to the title song, Bernstein, Comden & Green’s “Lucky to Be Me.”. Throughout the evening, Meulemans seems mostly to ignore the idea that one’s fortune tends to be mixed, that good luck is but one side of a worn, thin dime.

The show’s narrative content is autobiographical, and Meulemans does touch lightly on personal struggles he’s faced. Unfortunately, his patter is mostly breezily anecdotal. Often the stories he tells are little more than a few sentences that turn quickly into song cues.

Early on, he talks of a period of three or four years in his young life when, in quick succession, he (1) married, (2) came out of the closet, (3) divorced, and (4) became a father. There would seem to be enough in that brief period, alone, on which to build a strong and potentially engrossing narrative, but he skips over it all very quickly. Later in the evening, he tells a funny/sad anecdote about dressing in a fluorescent pink gorilla suit to deliver gag telegrams, then winding up sharing a drink with a street person when all goes wrong with the gig. He hints that this incident occurred during a troubling time in his life, and he caps it by singing Skip Kennon’s “Picking Up the Pieces,” the most somber number of the set. But the song doesn’t resonate as much as it might—and it certainly doesn’t function as any kind of epiphany—because Meulemans has been so vague about the nature of his difficulties.

I’m not suggesting that he turn into a “confessional” troubadour like Leonard Cohen, Janis Ian, or Dory Previn, cataloguing his personal woes for all to hear. That’s clearly not what he’s about. But with an autobiographical show, he shouldn’t shy away from speaking specifically and in some detail about the bum times that balanced the good ones.

It’s decidedly a stroke of (good) luck that Meulemans has the support of pianist and musical director Hubert “Tex” Arnold and bassist Bob Renino. Their playing is fine throughout the show, and sounds especially ethereal in a tender medley of Irving Berlin’s “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)” and Johnny Mercer’s “Dream.”

“Lucky to Be Me”
Metropolitan Room  –  March 19, June 11, September 16, December 10

Category: Reviews

About the Author ()

Mark Dundas Wood is an arts/entertainment journalist and dramaturg. In addition to reviewing for BistroAwards.com, he contributes regularly to theaterscene.net and clydefitchreport.com. Other reviews and articles have appeared in American Theatre and Back Stage. As a dramaturg, he has worked with New Professional Theatre and the New York Musical Theatre Festival.

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