David Campbell and Michael Pemberton will join forces May 20 and 21 at Joe's Pub, where they -- along with Natascia A. Diaz, Sara Ramirez, Philip Anthony and Jeremy Schonfeld -- will perform the work of songwriter Pemberton.
The two men are not strangers. They were both in the cast of Saturday Night, the early Stephen Sondheim work which had its New York premiere at Second Stage this past spring. Of course, Campbell happened to be the star of the show, while Pemberton played a couple of small roles. Still, the two found they had more in common one day when Campbell, an accomplished cabaret singer, stumbled upon Pemberton playing some songs on his guitar in the green room. The songs were Pemberton's own.
Campbell describes the music as a little Bruce Springsteen, a little Harry Chapin. "Michael calls it urban folk," he said. "It's very intimate and intricate."
After Pemberton and Campbell began jamming in the green room on a regular basis, Second Stage suggested they perform a concert of the theatre's stage on Monday night, when the show was not playing.
"For me it was a real test as to how broad an appeal my music had," remembered Pemberton. He was used to playing in front of maybe 60 people; the Second Stage gig roped in 300. "We thought at the intermission we might lose some of them, but we didn't lose any of them." The Joe's Pub set will feature 13 songs, all by Pemberton, who will sing three numbers; Campbell will sing six, Ramirez two and Diaz two. Schonfeld will double on keyboards, while Christopher Noth plays electric and double bass, Rex Benincasa plays drums and percussion and Steve Walsh mans the electric and slide guitar, dobro and mandolin.
One expected highlight is the song "Arts and Leisure," which got a good response at Second Stage. "It's a song about not being able to get out of bed without [the person you love]," explained Campbell. "And it just killed.... There's going to a be a real big coming from the stage."
Tickets are $25. Both shows are at 8:30. Joe's Pub is located at 425 Lafayette Street in Manhattan. For information, call (212) 239-6200.
--By Robert Simonson