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The theater has a long and rather fabled tradition of one-man shows, the best of which rank as spectacular because of rather than despite the absence of trappings customarily associated with spectacle. Done right, they also allow an actor to reveal all the many facets of their talent -- and of their craft. Of course the one man has to have talent enough to make the show spectacular. He (or she) must also have the courage. This Saturday, and each September Saturday thereafter, Jon Peterson will step on to the Miami Beach Stage Door stage with a one-man stand called Song Man Dance Man and show us all how the best gets done.
Wanna tell us a bit about Song Man Dance Man? The show is a rollercoaster ride through the lives of seven of the greatest men to entertain us in the 20th century; those who could quite literally do it all. Act, sing, dance, write, direct... these men were quite simply the essence of pure show business: George M. Cohan, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Bobby Darin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Anthony Newley.
Speaking of history, Song Man has a bit of a history itself, doesn't it? Yes, this all happened in 2008 while I was playing in the musical Half A Sixpence at Goodspeed. It was a part I'd always longed to play, but, apart from about five members of that cast, the people, dancers -- oh God, they were vile, and I was having a rotten time. So during the days I wrote Song Man and it was a welcome release for me. After trying out the show in Rhode Island I went straight to NYC and did it there in rep at the Triad Theatre. Then over the next couple of years picked the show up again periodically, changed it and did it again, in New York nightclubs, in rep at the 7 Angels Theatre in Connecticut, in Detroit, and last Fall in LA. So far (and I don't want to jinx it) it's been raves all the way. People are so HUNGRY to see good stuff done well with passion and integrity, which are unfashionable human qualities right now in showbiz... dumb and bland is IN!
Will this be your first time staging it in Miami? Yup, this is the first time with the show here. If we can get the word out it's ideal for Miami audiences -- the people who remember the eras fondly, and of course the gay audience -- it's a well known fact, gays have good taste. They don't go for any old crap -- if you want to be a gay icon you better be damn good!
How'd the Stage Door engagement come about? I had done George M. Cohan Tonight! there a few years back and when Dee [Wilson] and Dave [Torres], who run it, heard I was doing a new one-man show they asked me to come. I immediately said yes because they are so wonderful to work for and make the process of mounting a show so smooth.
Once this run is over, where do you go? This ends at the end of the month and then I have two weeks to lie by the pool before going off to the Milwaukee Rep to do the show there. In Milwaukee I'm expanding the show further, making it another 20 minutes longer, going deeper into their lives, what connected them and made them tick. It'll be the next stage for the show... by the end of this I'll have a few versions to offer theatres -- whichever their audiences tastes lean to...
Any chance Miamians will see you again sometime soon? I was asked to do a production of Cabaret as the Emcee here at the end of this year, but sadly I'll be in Milwaukee. I've done that role quite a lot and it's close to my heart. Still, next time...
What about perhaps applying your one-man-show skills to an infamous Miamian? Well, although far from infamous, I was thinking of including Ben Vereen in my show at one point, but as he'd be the only one still alive, I thought again -- that was another reason Aznavour didn't really fit, as he is still very much alive.
Jon Peterson's Song Man Dance Man Saturdays at 2 pm and 8 pm on September 10, 17 and 24 at Miami Beach Stage Door Theatre at the Byron Carlyle 500 71st Street Miami Beach. For more information call (305) 397-8977 or log on here.