Matt Sigl seems to be shot out of a cannon. He bursts onto the stage with a megadose of verve and good humor, a song in his showtune-loving heart, and a major but mischievous twinkle in his eye. To say he is "eager to please" would be putting it mildly. Fortunately for the audience, Matt has a lot more going for him than a burning desire to entertain: he knows how to do it. He's also quite canny, with a taste for the outrageous. With the help of a director he's worked with in book shows, Ryan Davis, Matt knows how to present himself.
The basis of Unstuck in Time is that, throughout his life (he's lived just a bit more than two decades), Matt has been in love with old songs. When his peers were listening to kiddie music or the current pop hits, he sought out tunes from the 1930s, teary torch ballads, and any razzamatazzy showstopper. He was mesmerized by them and memorized them. Early in the act, he claims that the very first song he remembers hearing and singing is "Don't Look At Me" from the score of Follies because his actress mom was in a local production of that Sondheim/Goldman show. He proceeds to sing the non-kid-friendly, psychologically complex character number, making the audience imagine him doing this at age five. It helps that he still looks extremely young and can "play" even younger.
After telling a story about auditioning for his elementary school talent show with songs like "Makin' Whoopee," he sings that song without a leer, but just with goofy energy (he professes to have been oblivious to the meaning of the title). The tale of the search for an acceptable, appropriate song and the schoolteacher's vetoes takes up a large part of the show and would be more effective if tightened. As he goes through full-length version of each "proposed" number, one loses the thread of the anecdote and the framework is overtaxed. Still, he's very funny; his risque humor (actually, sometimes smutty) certainly keeps things wild. The contrast of his wide-eyed baby face look makes that work. The chatty patter (there's plenty, and most of it lands) was written by Matt and his co-producing partner, Adam Rosen.
Matt's love for musical comedy and vaudeville-style material is evident, and he's believable as the boy happily caught in a time warp. He can probably channel Al Jolson in his sleep, judging by the way he so comfortably takes on songs like "Swanee." Much as he loves them, doing so many well-known songs close to their original basic tempi and treatments draws attention to the fact that he is more of an entertainer than a singer. He's charming and funny, but his voice's timbre and basic sound is not distinctive. This is especially true when he takes on a ballad, though heaven knows the audience needed to catch its breath from laughing. Pianist Will Van Dyke is a game, likable presence and also the occasional comic foil.
Matt has many things going for him. He has vocal power, he's brash and he can do some impressions (he slips perfectly into Ethel Merman on just two syllables - "Broad- way!!" within a line of "I Love a Piano"). He sometimes has a guest star (I saw him on January 30 when Kate Pazakis belted alone and in duet) and varies the program a bit from show to show. (The set list I got didn't include "Why Do the Wrong People Travel?" but I was glad to hear his take on this Noel Coward rant introduced by Elaine Stritch.) His act is a laugh and a half and full of swell songs. What would really take it to the next level would be a few songs uniquely his: original material or something so ultra-obscure that it seems to be original. I'd love to see him challenge himself in finding a ballad that really suits him and lets him show another side. Meanwhile, he's putting on a happy, snappy show that's hard to resist. So, let Matt entertain you - and you'll have a real good time - yes, sir!
Two more chances to catch Matt Sigl at Don't Tell Mama:
Don't Tell Mama is at 343 West 46th St. Cover charge is $10 ($5 for Cabaret Hotline
members, no cover for MAC members) plus a two-drink minimum.
Reservations: 212- 757- 0788.
For more info: www.MattSigl.com