Ezra Axelrod: Songs From The American Motel
Great name, shame about the show
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An unmade bed, discarded clothes on every surface and seven strangers. I know we’ve all been there, but this time it’s the set for Ezra Axelrod’s cabaret/showcase at The Venue’s intimate Lounge (they say intimate; we say cramped) which ends up being about as rocky as karaoke night at a Doncaster gay bar.
Axelrod has been making a name for himself on the gay music scene blending theatre, stand-up and original songs in an evening which tells his story from small town America to living above a Soho brothel. His songs, which, at their best display an affecting and wistful longing (particularly in ‘Fútbol y Mangos’) and at worse show the perils of spending too much time listening to the Cruel Intentions soundtrack, are personal introspections, each one prefixed with an appropriate anecdote.
Axelrod, perched on the bed like Judy Garland at The Palace, giggles and flirts, helpfully explaining to a (mostly gay) audience what DILFs are, and what we might find in QX Magazine. These inter-song stories, mostly pitched at the level of what I imagine conversations in gap year hostels must sound like, serve little purpose. Axelrod’s life seems unremarkable (small town boy moves to big city), and he lacks the star power of, say John Leguizamo ’s recent solo show Ghetto Klown, which is necessary to sell a story, no matter how big or small. Each time we seem to come back to his multifarious conquests, and an anecdote about a friend of a friend’s porn star aspirations falls awkwardly flat.
Like a bride upstaged by glamorous bridesmaids, Axelrod’s backing singers, Tim Oxbrow (looking like a young Robert Downey Jr with biceps) and Dwayne Washington (with an plaintive, emotive, almost rasping sound) carry the music. The six piece backing impresses, but there is a case the over-mikings going on, especially since the room seats 40.
Perhaps I’m really missing something here, but I’m not quite sure what lasting impression Axelrod wants. The tunes are pretty enough, and he’s moderately easy on the eye, but dressed in Emperor’s new clothes of cod-philosophical introspection the thinness of his writing unfortunately shines through. If he’s just sharing stories, then great, but I’m not sure why this warrants an audience’s undivided attention.
Axelrod may be staying in the American Motel but this reviewer checked out a long time ago.
Words: Dan Usztan
Ezra Axelrod is at The Lounge at The Venue, Leicester Square, London until 3 March