Now to someone just getting his feet wet in cabaret. Handsome newcomer Michael Ferreri made an impressive debut recently with two sold out shows at the FireBird Cafe. With striking charisma, charming stage presence, and a soft baritone voice, he is clearly a promising talent. In his show, "Sweet Dreams," with musical director Christopher Marlowe and director Scott Barnes, he quickly won the room over in spades. His well-chosen songs were appropriate for his winning persona, and played off his strengths. And, if audience response is any indication, he's off to a grand start.
Opening with David Friedman's buoyant anthem, "Listen To My Heart," and then Lloyd Webber's "Unexpected Song" (from "Song And Dance"), I wondered if he tackled too much at the top. To his credit, Ferreri shined on the show tunes as well as the more intimate numbers, like John Bucchino's wistful story song, "Sweet Dreams" (the title of his debut CD). Seemingly most comfortable with tales of the heart, I'd like to hear more of this in future shows. He was also effective on some theatre songs like Sondheim's "Move On" (from "Sunday in the Park with George") and the Lerner/Lane mainstay, "Hurry It's Lovely Up Here" (from "On A Clear Day You Can See Forever"), which were highlights in this hour.
A local piano room favorite, Ferreri is most at home on familiar territory like the show tunes you're very likely to hear in piano bars. As he grows in cabaret and starts to dig deeper, I think his shows will further explore his sensitive and whimsical sides, which are yet to be fully tapped in depth. (He had a lot of fun with Amanda McBroom's ditty, "Everybody Wants To Be Sondheim.")
For a newcomer, he's one of the most engaging performers I've seen in a while. The evening's highlight came with a heartfelt reading of Bucchino's beauty, "A Dream." To many, that's what Michael Ferreri is. His fan base is rabid and growing and he's back by popular demand on April 28, at 9 pm.
--John Hoglund: "Bistro Bits"
Back Stage, April 13, 2001
Cabaret CDs are a mixed bag these days. Largely privately funded, the CD seems to be the route to jumpstart an artist's career. Unfortunately, the mix is heavily skewed to the self-indulgent and, to be blunt, really bad ...
So, when a really original CD comes over the transom, it's a cause for celebration. Michael Ferreri's new disc Sweet Dreams is just that. Beautifully orchestrated and wonderfully sung, this 12-song selection actually gets better with each hearing. Mr. Ferreri has a unique voice, a sly wit, and the ability to communicate through a song that generally only happens in live performance. Moreover, he has selected songs ranging from Frank Wildhorn to Jerry Herman to Billy Joel that are unusual and well suited to his style. This is a remarkably mature work for a first album in that Mr. Ferreri is always appropriate and clear in his choices as a performer, never overwhelming the song but leaving room for the listener to have his or her own experience. That's the hallmark of a confident artist who makes each song compelling and real.
More than just showcasing his fresh and engaging voice, in many cases Mr. Ferreri finds wonderful nuances in songs that may be familiar. Both "Storybook" from The Scarlet Pimpernel and "I Don't Want to Know" from Dear World have a wistful resonance that is surprising and dead-on. His sense of humor is apparent in a song about falling in love in the middle of the city and the fact that in New York one shares "One Private Moment" with nine million others, and his rendition of "Words He Doesn't Say" is a simple statement about the end of a relationship that's remarkable for its subtlety. Musically, Mr. Ferreri, working with musical director and arranger Christopher Marlowe, finds fresh harmonics in each piece that only enhance the power of the songs.
In the sometimes punishing and uneven world of cabaret, Mr. Ferreri is the kind of increasingly rare artist who combines a uniquely personal talent with a rich musicality and a selection of material that come together in a consistently rewarding recording. This is a welcome and wonderful CD that is a must-have for any collection.
-- Christopher Byrne
Cabaret isn't exactly setting the Billboard charts ablaze (does Billboard even have a Cabaret chart?) yet there is clamoring for noteworthy cabaret albums like Michael Ferreri's Sweet Dreams. It blends compositions by musical theater greats (Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Schwartz, ]erry Herman, Frank Wildhorn, Maury Yeston) and pop songwriters (Billy Joel, John Bucchino). Ferreri's sensitive renditions are worth hearing: potentially over-dramatic songs "Words He Doesn't Say" (by Keith Herrman and Barry Harman) and "Sweet Dreams" (by Bucchino) have true emotional impact. Ferreri lights up two Joel tunes, "Lullabye" and "And So It Goes" like torch songs, allowing them to shine brighter than ever.
-- Gregg Shapiro
Notes from the Pit
Intelligent song selection and a real devotion to lyrics are not always found in a cabaret performer's debut CD, so it's a pleasure to report that they exist, in spades, in Michael Ferreri's Sweet Dreams ...
Ferreri's rich baritone, accented by the always brilliant Christopher Marlowe's arrangements, is always a pleasure to listen to, but he fares best tackling such lesser-known, contemporary gems as "Words He Doesn't Say," "I Had A Dream About You," "Marking Time" and "A Dream," and shines on heartfelt renditions of two Billy Joel ballads, "Lullabye" and "And So It Goes." ...
-- Brian Scott Lipton