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Will Roland “Loser Songs”

Will Roland – Loser Songs
Bay Area Cabaret, Venetian Room, San Francisco, CA, February 11, 2018

Cabaret is no stranger to themed shows; love songs, breakup songs, comedy songs, etc. Will Roland, star of Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen, has created one of the smartest, funniest and adventurous theme shows I’ve seen in many a year. Loser Songs, created with Music Director Charlie Rosen and Director Max Friedman, is a cleverly crafted, excellently delivered musical narrative on a social stereotype we all can relate to- the loser.

You know the guy; hopelessly unremarkable and socially inept, he’s the guy who never gets the good jobs, the girl of his dreams or the lifelong friends. With his oversized eyeglasses, sport coat, jeans and sneakers, Will Roland represents just that guy, were he not so hip and urbane. Opening with Jonathan Coulton’s ‘The Future Soon’, Roland yearns for a time when “I won’t always be this way, When the things that make me weak and strange get engineered away”.  In ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ (Wheatus), the hapless loser signs of unrequited love, lonely and alone on prom night.

Re-creating his role as Nato in Joe Iconis’ indie rock musical The Black Suits, Roland sings “The Answer”, searching for escapist alternatives to the test questions he can’t answer.  The song is an explosion of youthful angst, panic and desires. Three more tunes from that show are presented; the ridiculous metaphor “Son of a Gun”, the loser as the inhumane robot in “Flesh and Bone (The Robot Song)” and the invisible loser wanting to fit in by going to war (“The War Song”).

Roland provides a well-written narrative to the show; so precise that we feel we know the loser’s profile and can uncomfortably empathize with him. Backed by Charlie Rosen (keys), Schuyler McFadden on guitars, Adam Lowdermilk on bass and Ryan McBride on drums, the music is new, quirky and energetic.  Roland represents the alternative Broadway leading man- perhaps similar to the over-achieving loser this show presents. When the ‘loser’ accepts himself and exalts in his uniqueness, we all get a rush of adrenaline. Befitting this geek epic, there’s an unlikely fantastical finale; Roland returns to his admiration for the vastness of space mentioned in the set opener (The Future Soon) and launches into a rousing mashup of David Bowie’s “Spaced Oddity” and Styx’s “Come Sail Away’. It was a moving, funny and compelling all at once.

I’ve seen many talented performers through the years at Bay Area Cabaret; cabaret and Broadway superstars and rising talents galore. I must admire Artistic Director Marilyn Levinson’s chutzpah at presenting this show. Roland may be a familiar NYC entertainer, but is hardly a known commodity unless you happened to see him as Jared in Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway. It certainly is not the typical fare you see at BAC shows either. Roland appeals to a new demographic that should and must be included in cabaret venues. Loser Songs, a one-man act with music, is an extremely well-crafted, captivatingly performed show.