I FINALLY made it to see Michael Vitaly Sazonov’s show, My Well Schooled Heart: The Education of a Young, Modern Day Romantic, when it played CHAW Monday night.
Let me say, right off the bat, that Sazonov is a terrific young performer. He combines movie star looks with a brooding intensity tempered by an occasional mischievous grin. He has a terrific vocal attack when singing, an obvious commitment to his material, and makes some fascinating melodic choices. And Alex Tang as music director certainly remains on his game, providing cinematic support for a very intricate piece.
Unlike a cabaret act where the singer has chosen a roster of songs that are occasionally connected/interrupted by patter, Sazonov has created an extended monologue with musical interludes. Sazonov discourses on his experiences with love and romance, emotional game-playing, and healing with a fervent intensity. And he lapses into a terrific collection of songs. But the piece feels like a shotgun marriage of Spalding Gray and Michael Buble. On the other hand, with its verbal twists and turns, its “sampling” of material, and the feeling of multiple jump cuts, we may be seeing the birth of GenZ Cabaret.
I really respect and really loved the commitment that Sazonov brings to the material, and his passion and desire to communicate. But I never felt that he was having a conversation with me as an audience member. And the sheer barrage of words occasionally felt like an assault, which sadly often didn’t allow a lot of time to process the very meaty text he scripted. And the protean energy he expended in his performance occasionally exhausted me. And made me feel old.
Which brings us to the age issue. It’s really hard for someone in the usual cabaret audience demographic to hear someone of Sazonov’s youth say, “I remember my first love” without thinking “You should, it was only last week.” No matter how well-contexted, Blame It On My Youth should at least be saved for someone’s 4th decade. But like Spring Awakening, the occasional callowness of his script is part of the charm of hearing the genuine, affecting discoveries that someone of his age is making.
And a huge plus on the age factor — at least half of his audience was made up of people under 30. So if anyone is drawing that demographic to hear this material, I will keep celebrating and encouraging his work.
I look forward to seeing Sazonov grow and his work mature. And catching him early, you’ll all be able to say, “I remember when…”
Here’s the list of what he sang: