Jim Van Slyke

The Sedaka Show

NextStop Theater
Herndon, VA
In The Sedaka Show, Jim Van Slyke pays tribute to Neil Sedaka, performing works representing the span of the singer/songwriter’s career. While an hour can hardly do justice to a career of over six decades, Van Slyke offered a well-selected program of favorites and less well-known numbers spanning Sedaka’s various eras. The doo-wop sound was represented with a medley of early hits such as “Calendar Girl,” “Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen” and “Where the Boys Are” (all three written with Howard Greenfield) that had the audience applauding each new selection. The seventies came through with a rousing “Love Will Keep Us Together” (Greenfield) and a soulful “Solitair” (with Phil Cody) Sedaka’s more recent “Brighton” was presented as a charming walk on the beach.

Van Slyke is a charismatic performer with a technically adept tenor, and his pop-flavored vocals perfectly suited to the material. However, his biggest asset in the show was his ability to channel Sedaka without doing an imitation of the artist. Cabaret artists are often instructed to be “writing the song” as they sing it. Not only did Van Slyke achieve that, he presented the aforementioned doo wop medley with the aplomb of a songwriter doing his own “and then I wrote” medley.

The arrangements balanced referencing the original material with providing a variety of sound in the evening. A Dinah Washington-inspired reading of “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” (Greenfield) and a medley of “Pray for Rain” and “Laughter in the Rain” (Cody) were particularly effective. Further channeling the Sedaka style, Van Slyke ably accompanied himself on piano for a number of songs. For the rest, Maureen “Reenie” Codelka provided solid support at the keys.

Michael Miyazaki
Cabaret Scenes
August 17, 2014