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You've Got to Have Your Standards


Broadway star Billy Porter performs his cabaret show "The Standard."

"There are hits…and then there are standards," Broadway star and recording artist Billy Porter tells the audience from the stage at Mark's Restaurant. Affecting a silly stance, he mimics a line from hip-hop artist Kelis' 2003 hit: "My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard, and they're like, it's better than yours," he sings in a whiny tone, stopping abruptly. "Sure it's a hit…but probably not a standard."

And so for the duration of the evening, Porter performed songs that were not just hits, but rather songs that may stand the test of time. The West Coast premiere of his show, "The Standard," presented by Upright Cabaret, ran March 27–28 in West Hollywood.

It's unfortunate it didn't enjoy a longer run. Oscar-winning Jennifer Hudson, director Bill Condon, and actor Wilson Cruz (He's Just Not That Into You) were in attendance Saturday night among a packed crowd.

A mixture of modern-day classics and older favorites, Porter spun out his version of each song in a way that kept this audience member guessing. His "standards" included songs from John Legend, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, and India.Arie, and while they were mostly recognizable to the audience, he didn't hesitate to make them his own.

Ranging from a smooth and rich sound at times to raspy and funky at others, Porter seamlessly tied each song together into one cohesive show. He even threw in a little rap in there with quite a lot success.

His band, led by the incredibly talented music director and keyboardist, James Sampliner, was perfection, playing off of Porter's vocal stylings with ease. Sampliner added quite a bit of fun to the show as he moved and swayed to the music while tickling the keys.

While Porter's song choices and delivery were nearly flawless, perhaps it is his sheer performance power -- his ability to entertain -- that made the show an absolute pleasure. Either way, it fit my standards. 

-- Jessyca Dewey





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