Pizza on the Park: London, UK

By Harold Sanditen

Any performer runs a major risk when he provides previous press quotes to a reviewer, or for that matter, any audience member. He has a lot to live up to in those quotes, and Craig Pomranz has quotes which even God Himself would envy.

I had never seen Craig perform, but I’d read the quotes and a previous Cabaret Scenes review, so I was worried he wouldn’t step up to the plate…Craig can belt, croon, crack jokes — and he does so in his own style, which makes him all the more appealing.

Craig’s voice is beautiful. His high notes are clear and warm and very listenable, and he hits them with complete ease. For my money, though, I think he should concentrate on using his lower range more. It’s sultry and sexy and can pierce you with its soulful, mature depth. It also makes a nice counterpoint to his more youthful upper range. He started off his first set on a slightly rocky road. He’d been having voice trouble and had almost lost his voice, but nerves and adrenalin kicked in, and, by Jove, he got it back! And how!

His first set told of his love for London (for the most part anyway), a city in which he’s spent a lot of time and of which has many fond memories. I loved the fact that he started with “April in Paris.” After all, you know that old joke about Americans in Europe: in this case, if it’s Friday, it must be France. His interpretation of the song was terrific, and my first glimpse of his voice. After some exchanges of witty words with his pianist, Stephen Bocchino, he quickly moved into “A Foggy Day (in London Town),” thus arriving in England by Eurostar.

His songs were fun and witty and melancholic, and generally, really, really lovely. Two songs in particular stood out, both beautiful ballads. My favorite of the whole evening was a spine-tingling, chilling, mesmerizing interpretation of Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog Jr.’s “Don’t Explain.” It was simply amazing. I also fell in love with his version of Edward Heyman and Victor Young’s “When I Fall in Love,” which showed off his falsetto and upper range perfectly.

His second set consisted of songs from his new CD, More Than a Seasonal Thing. I must admit I preferred his first set, but there were another two songs that stood out – Marty Clark and Bob Haymes’s “They Say It’s Spring,” which Craig did in a perky jazz version, and a captivating medley of George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward’s “Summertime” and Jerome Moross and John Latouche’s “Lazy Afternoon.”

(This bit’s just for Craig: As an expat living here for 23 years now, I’ve had to learn an entirely new language and am now fully bilingual in “American” and English. It’s “hair pin,” not “bobby pin.” Not that I have the opportunity to use that word all that often….)

Craig’s Musical Director/pianist, Stephen Bocchino, provided a terrific dry counterpoint to Craig’s exuberance, and did some nice harmonies with Craig. He also really knows how to tickle those ivories!

Craig’s a real pro. He can sing with the best of them and can hold an audience’s attention with his wit and charm, even in the quiet moments. I will look forward seeing and hearing more of Craig.