On Sunday October 3, Derek Klena, one of the top five finalists in LA's Next Great Stage Star 2010, made his full cabaret debut at Sterling's Upstairs @ Vitello's. It also happened to be his 19th birthday, and at 19, this young man has an amazing future ahead of him. Tall, handsome with a great singing voice and unassuming nature, Klena displayed great variety in his pop and Broadway choices and shared the evening with five appealing singers/guest stars: his sister Lauren, young brother Dylan, Melissa Mitchell with whom he co-starred in Cabrillo's Cinderella this past summer and old friends Jonathan Arona and Kristen Lamoureux.
Highlights included, from Broadway: "Moving Too Fast" from The Last Five Years, another Jason Robert Brown superb song "Old Red Hills of Home" from Parade, a dandy one for Klena's strong vocal artistry, "Back to before" from Ragtime, another good choice for Klena, who introduced it appropriately by talking about his recent transition to UCLA and telling his mom "I'm a big boy now!", "There Once Was A Man" from The Pajama Game, a sterling duet with Mitchell, and "Therapy" from Joanthan Larson's Tick Tick Boom, audition song for Derek and sister Lauren, who pair exceedingly well together. On the pop front there were: Scott Alan's beautiful "Kiss the Air", a rockin' Elvis medley "Teddy Bear", "Hound Dog" and "All Shook Up", made even more rockin' with Lauren and brother Dylan on hand and Marc Shaiman's "Goodbye" from Catch Me If You Can, as encore.
James Lent's dependably brilliant artistry was once more on display as accompanist/musical director. There was a cute radio spot/commercial recorded by Klena for his upcoming appearance in Cabrillo's Happy Days the Musical opening October 22, showing just how perfectly he fits the role of everybody's pal Ritchie Cunningham.
Klena's boyish charm, good looks and wonderful talent should guarantee him a permanent spot on the musical theatre stage. With so much talent and drive apparent, I predict great things for him!