Harold Sanditen – Thoughts ’Round Midnight

Thoughts ’Round Midnight
A cabaret of songs by Shirley Eikhard, Leonard Bernstein & Stephen Sondheim, Bill Burnett & Peggy Sarlin, Jay Leonhart, Bob Dylan, Todd Rundgren, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Shel Silverstein, Craig Carnelia, Mark Campbell & Debra Barsha, John Bucchino, John Lennon & Paul McCartney, Bernie Hanighen, Cootie Williams & Thelonious Monk, Arthur Herzog Jr & Billie Holiday, Benj Pasek & Justin Paul, Billy Rose, Edward Heyman & Johnny Green, and Jerome Kern & Dorothy Fields

Harold Sanditen – Singer
Nathan Martin – Musical Director/Piano
Nick Kaçal – Bass
Lisa Forrell – Director

Reviewed by: Michael Darvell

Reviewed: 24 January, 2011
Venue: The Pheasantry, London

Harold Sanditen. Photograph: Jack Ladenburg 2010Why does a former investment banker turned producer after twenty years working in the London theatre decide to change careers and become a cabaret performer? You will have to ask that question of Harold Sanditen, because that is exactly what he has done. Two decades of putting on all kinds of shows for other people, in a variety of venues, found him tiring of administrative work, so he decided to switch roles. There is still a lot involved in self-promotion, but Sanditen seems to have found his true niche in life.

Three years ago a friend invited him to a cabaret and he became so enamoured of the genre he enrolled in a cabaret workshop in Tuscany (of all places). Last year he attended the International Cabaret Conference at Yale University and received training from Julie Wilson, Tovah Feldshuh and Faith Prince. He’s been learning his art and craft on the road, appearing in clubs in New York and London, lately at the now-defunct Pizza on the Park. He has three shows under his belt and has just released a CD, “Taking Flight“.

“Thoughts ’Round Midnight” is his latest show – at the venue that has replaced Pizza on the Park, The Pheasantry in Chelsea’s King’s Road. He will be taking it to Chicago and New York and returns at the end of February to perform at the Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch. The theme of Harold’s latest show is what you might be thinking about whilst still awake at the midnight hour. He claims to be a not very good sleeper. However, the worst thing you can do is surely to start thinking about the meaning of life or the end of it, for that will only keep you further awake. Thoughts at midnight might include settling old scores or old sores and to illustrate this he has chosen a very eclectic selection of songs. Although a lover of show-tunes, standards and classics, Harold has tried to get away from the usual cabaret repertoire of the Great American Songbook.

Harold Sanditen. Photograph: Jack Ladenburg 2010In this he has certainly succeeded and has taken on board a very mixed bunch of American songs and songwriters. Obviously we know Bob Dylan, Todd Rundgren, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Craig Carnelia, John Bucchino, Lennon & McCartney, Thelonious Monk, and Billie Holiday, but Harold tempers their songs with such as ‘Something to talk about’, Shirley Eikkard’s excellent number that opens the show as Harold enters via the audience. He then goes into the more familiar ‘Somewhere’, from “West Side Story” before launching into Bill Burnett & Peggy Sarlin’s ‘I regret everything’ which, despite its title, is very funny. Harold chooses songs that show a comic side to life’s problems. In between numbers he talks about his life from his early days in Oklahoma to the present. He has a great connection with his audience and is building a steady fan-base.

Jay Leonhart‘s ‘Look down off a bridge’ is a plangent piece, as is Todd Rundgren’s ‘I saw the light’, while Bob Dylan’s ‘Make you feel my love’ is a surprisingly charming song perhaps untypical of his output. Antonio Carlos Jobim’s marvellous ‘Waters of March’ is currently very apt and topical because of the floods in the writer’s country of Brazil, and of course Australia too. Shel Silverstein’s ‘A boy named Sue’ is a humorous take on the Johnny Cash classic, at least in the way Harold performs it – unable to equal Cash, he sings it as Noel Coward might once have done with typically clipped enunciation that makes it a genuinely comic turn. Still in the realms of humour, ‘He never did that before’ by Debra Barsha & Mark Campbell is a lover’s query about why a partner has suddenly changed his love-making technique – a question that might keep anybody awake at midnight. The answer might be in Lennon & McCartney’s ‘We can work it out’ or possibly Billie Holiday’s ‘Don’t explain’. With these and other songs by Craig Carnelia, John Bucchino, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and the song that gives his show its title – by Thelonious Monk, Cootie Williams & Bernie Hanighen – Harold Sanditen has created a very satisfying entertainment, aided by the skilful piano-playing and occasional duetting by Nathan Martin along with Nick Kacal on bass.

After so short a time in cabaret it is obvious that Harold Sanditen is still learning and also developing into an artist with a genuine talent that promises much for the future. He finishes with a true classic, ‘The way you look tonight’ by Jerome Kern & Dorothy Fields. Fred Astaire – eat your heart out!

  • Harold Sanditen plays the Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch, Essex on Sunday 27 February 2011

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