“Marry Me America: an evening of songs by Daniel Maté”

*UPDATE 2/14/2009: Clips of this very night can be seen at Daniel Maté’s YouTube page:

http://www.youtube.com/user/danielmatemusic Thank you *

As previously blogged, I went to see the composer showcase of Daniel Maté on Friday. This time, the venue was at the Laurie Beechman Theater. I don’t particularly like the Beech, unless you’re seated in an area where waiters and waitresses aren’t walking in front of you every minute. It’s very distracting; when I saw “What’s the Point?” a few months ago, I sat in the very front row of tables and was undisturbed; this time, I was 1/2 way back from the stage and had to turn my foot away every time a waiter went by with a few plates of food. Highly distracting to say the least, especially when you’re in the mood to pay attention to the music – that’s what you’re there for, right?

Luckily, Daniel Maté’s music and lyrics (as well as his collaborative composers and lyricists) are hard to be distracted from. He has a lovely turn of phrase, especially. Maté himself hosted the evening, and sang a number of songs himself. However, he left most of the singing to a wide range of singers, all of whom were terrific. The night was directed by Rob Heller, with musical direction and piano by Christopher D. Littlefield. Added to the stage on some songs were Eric Day on bass guitar. Of particular note was Donna Lynne Champlin, of Sweeney Todd fame. She sang two of Maté’s songs I have heard previously: “I Don’t Think of You” (comedic looney) and “Three Sisters” (dramatically dark). In both songs, and probably due to the fact that they are so actable in nature, Champlin made strong acting choices – she was a real master class to watch and learn from. The entire room was stunned silent by the end of the final notes of “Three Sisters,” and even the waiters knew to halt movement at that time.

Maté kept the room’s easygoing but brisk pace moving, and even had an audience participation quiz thrown in on the song “I Come in Peace,” about his Canadian struggles getting past the United States border guard. Danny Gardner sang “Ali Abu Jeffrey’s Great Escape,” a dark comedic song that I particularly found funny and politically pointed. Two songs from his upcoming musical The Trouble With Doug: A Modern-Day Metamorphosis were also featured during the second half. This show will be premiered at CAP21 this Spring. A beatboxing vocal – care of Rob Broadhurst – was added to the second to last song, “All I Want,” which complemented the comedic pop sensibilities of singer Jason Tam.

The title song of the event, “Marry Me America” was performed by Maté at the end of the evening, just himself at the piano. The song was a bittersweet love poem to America, characterized as an old, worn out lady yearning for love and change. Frankly, it was a bit uncomfortable for myself, an American, to hear my country described as such by someone looking in from “outside” her borders. But the truth in Maté’s lyrics are poignant, painfully real and relevant. The discomfort gave way to bittersweet acceptance that in this day and age (well, probably in every day and age), the beauty America has can be looked at as somewhat worn and in need of repair and a honeymoon with a handsome Canadian lover with TLC.

Keep an eye and ear out for Daniel Maté and his upcoming shows!

P.S. Of particular musical theater geekiness of note, William Finn (writer of Falsettos and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) was in the audience, and was referenced by Maté as his teacher and mentor in songwriting. Quite a number of songs, when introduced, were revealed to be influenced by Finn’s instruction and guidance. So, that was…uh…neat!