Camille Diamond: “Over the Moon….on Pluto Transit”
During the last six years of health crises and political and economic crises, people turned to a variety of sources for solutions to problems and answers to questions. Religion, medicine, government, and community, all had meager responses, so I suppose it is inevitable that some choose to ascribe the dire state of affairs to the stars. That is the core of Camille Diamond’s cabaret debut, Over the Moon…on Pluto Transit which played recently at Don’t Tell Mama. Fear not, it was not as heavy as it sounds, but it was also not as light as it should have been.
Having been a semi-finalist in the most recent Mama’s Next Big Act and a finalist in the 2019 Tomatoes Got Talent, Diamond is not a stranger to the cabaret stage. Her infectious energy and sure and strong legit voice made her opening, astrologically inclined “planet songs mash-up” a bright and cheery introduction, or at least they did until she interrupted its flow with a break for patter before we had completely “met” her voice. It was a battle to regain the momentum when she sang again. It did not help that the patter, while containing some jokey, funny lines, also had a lot of star and planet and constellation talk that was like a foreign language to someone who brings nothing astrological to the table—someone like this writer.
She wisely presented much of the early material in a genially self-mocking way. Her funny re-write of “Roxy” as “Pluto” (John Kander, Fred Ebb, new lyrics Diamond) worked but was weighed down by the bass and drums. This is not to deny the obvious talents of Tom Hubbard on bass and Don Kelly on drums—their work was good, as it always is. It is just that I often find that a piano is the way to go on comedy material, even more so when the pianist is as good as her music director, Steven Ray Watkins. There’s a lack of freedom and buoyancy with a trio that prevented the singer from letting loose with the levity. She didn’t seem fully comfortable with the trio format.
In spite of being introduced by talk of The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity (as with the astrological references, there was an assumption made that the majority of people in the audience knew the book and/or the philosophy), “Cautiously Optimistic” (Peter Mills) was bright and winning, if a bit too much like the energy of “Roxy,” and the feel of the soon-to -follow “You Mustn’t Be Discouraged” (Jule Styne, Betty Comden, Adolph Green)—a rarity nicely brought back to the spotlight. The sameness was reinforced by each having a “razzmatazz” show-bizzy ending with arms out and a big smile. Each song on its own was fine but presented so closely to each other they needed more colors to differentiate their individuality. The style was obviously a comfort zone for Diamond but she didn’t need to visit it quite so often.
Ironically, the numbers that fared the best were the ones that were only tangentially connected to the premise by patter, if at all. An inspired medley of “Paint It Black” (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards) and “Back to Black” (Amy Winehouse, Mark Ronson) was surprisingly strong and hypnotic and pointed the way to a more serious avenue Diamond should definitely explore in future shows. Surviving some awkward chat before it, “When October Goes” (Barry Manilow, Johnny Mercer) was beautifully phrased and glowingly emotional. “I’m A Stranger Here Myself” (Kurt Weill, Ogden Nash) was included to expand on patter about Venus the planet because it was originally written for the musical One Touch of Venus. Regardless, the song itself was terrific. A singular highlight was a medley of “Circle of Life” (Elton John, Tim Rice) and “A Child is Born” (Thad Jones, Alec Wilder), sung with a natural tone, full of feeling and a conversational delivery that was mesmerizing. I can honestly say it was the first time I had ever thought of the Lion King song as worth doing. I stand corrected. It was so lovely that even the earnest, starry-eyed (if you’ll pardon the expression) introduction couldn’t hurt it.
As the show progressed towards its conclusion, the talk of astrology and planets and degrees and the like became more serious, and more intrusive to the music which was getting better except for the inclusion of Carole King’s “No Easy Way Down” without rhyme or reason or connection to the concept and offering nothing in its forced, overwrought delivery to explain its presence. I wondered if, perhaps, it had been well-received in one of the contests she had entered. Unlike her dynamic “Paint it Black”, this “blue-eyed soul” avenue was one to avoid in the future. She bounced right back with Jimmy Webb’s “Everybody Gets to Go to the Moon” that was a rapid-fire delight, minus an awkward re-write in the middle. Kander and Ebb’s “The World Goes ‘Round” was an exciting finish that she managed to make her own and she left the stage on a high note. I rate the show on the plus side for her talent and voice, on the minus side for her proselytizing about the power of astrology and the stars. When she was having fun with it, we did too. When she got serious, the fun vanished. Here’s to more earthbound endeavors in the future.
Presented at Don’t Tell Mama, 343 W. 46th St., NYC, Nov. 5, 12, & 19, 2023; returning Feb. 25, March 16, 2024.
About the Author
Gerry Geddes has conceived and directed a number of musical revues—including the Bistro- and MAC Award-winning "Monday in the Dark with George" and "Put On Your Saturday Suit-Words & Music by Jimmy Webb"—and directed many cabaret artists, including André De Shields, Helen Baldassare, Darius de Haas, and drag artist Julia Van Cartier. He directs "The David Drumgold Variety Show," currently in residence at Manhattan Movement & Arts Center, and has produced a number of recordings, including two Bistro-winning CDs. He’s taught vocal performance at The New School, NYU, and London’s Goldsmith’s College and continues to conduct private workshops and master classes. As a writer and critic, he has covered New York’s performing arts scene for over 40 years in both local and national publications; his lyrics have been sung by several cabaret and recording artists. Gerry is an artist in residence at Pangea, and a regular contributor to the podcast “Troubadours & Raconteurs.” He just completed a memoir of his life in NYC called “Didn’t I Ever Tell You This?”