THE LEADING MEN: A ‘Phantom’ phenom - McGillin, Tartaglia & Gurland

By Wayman Wong
01 Apr 2003

David Gurland is a boyish pop singer who’s got a golden voice that is sweeter than honey, and his soaring, sky-high tenor has left audiences abuzz at Don’t Tell Mama, Eighty Eight’s, Fez, the FireBird Café and the Russian Tea Room. The 5-foot-4 entertainer has won three BackStage Bistro Awards, and his sensational self-titled CD garnered a Gay and Lesbian American Music Award nomination for his rousing rendition of Tom Andersen and Tim Di Pasqua’s toe-tapping swing tune, "You Should Know."

Speaking of things you should know, this Manhattan-born singer is busier than a beehive this month. Gurland opens Privately, a new cabaret act, April 11 and 25 at The Duplex; appears in Barbara Brussell’s The Songs of Bob Merrill salute on April 6 at Danny’s Skylight Room; and croons Michael Holland’s tunes at the New Mondays songwriters’ showcase on April 21 at The Duplex. Plus, he’s nominated for Outstanding Male Vocalist, along with Marcus Simeone and Lennie Watts, on April 14 at the 2003 MAC Awards, the Oscars of cabaret, at Symphony Space.

Gurland, 35, sings with a passion, personality and puckish charm that is all his own. Just listen to his sensuous signature rendition of Sting’s "Every Breath You Take."

Based on the idea of "standing on your own two feet" and being independent, his new Privately show offers everything from Carole King ("Beautiful") to Rodgers & Hammerstein ("My Lord and Master"). As always, this NYU grad delights in giving old songs a new spin: "I love ‘Without You’ [from My Fair Lady]. It’s Eliza Doolittle’s song of liberation, but I got together with my great musical director, Dick Gallagher, and we’ve turned it into a bluesy torch song." It’s Gurland with a touch of Garland, and now it’s a gay man’s defiant "Hymn to Him."

As an openly out artist with an actor-boyfriend of nine years, Gurland says, "If you’re not true to yourself onstage, what are you doing? In cabaret, you have the freedom to be who you are. When I first sang ‘Taylor [the Latte Boy],’ I just thought, ‘Wow, wouldn’t that be funny?’ I never really thought, ‘Omigod, he’s in love with a guy at Starbucks!’ There’s no reason why I can’t sing that song. I think part of the cabaret world wants the guy singers to be a little like eunuchs. They don’t want you to be too sexual or proud. Real straight guys in cabaret are rare, and they tend to get put on a pedestal. But there’s room for everyone as long as you commit to the music 100%."

In 1991, Gurland won a "Stars of Tomorrow" contest at The Duplex, so his latest show practically brings things full-circle today: "I’m still doing this because I love it. There’s nothing like that intimacy with an audience. It’s a great high and I’m hooked!"

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There’s so much to see in New York: "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?" Well, if you’re legendary songwriters Michel Legrand and Alan Bergman, you headline April 1-12 at Feinstein’s at the Regency, joined by top pop star Patti Austin. . . . Chicago star James Naughton is in like Flynn April 1-12 and April 22-May 3 at the swell and elegant Café Carlyle. . . . Adam James, a snazzy young jazz singer who’s been called "the Canadian Connick," swings into town April 3 at Chez Suzette . . . . John DePalma, a 2003 Bistro Award winner and recording artist ("The Song Is Mine"), performs Fridays at Don’t Tell Mama, starting April 4, and he’ll have the audience in DePalma his hand. Also at Mama’s: the larger-than-Life Chuck Cooper sings April 6, 7 and 13. . . . Love the wonderful songs of World War II? Take a Sentimental Journey on April 4 at Town Hall. The gung-ho guys on the bill will be Jarrod Cafaro, Scott Coulter and Jonathan Frank, and the rosy and riveting gals will be Marnie Baumer, Debbie Gravitte, Martha Lorin, Karen Mason and Karen Oberlin. . . . Finally, Jonathan Frank is a music critic who usually offers "Sound Advice" and sings the praises of cabaret stars at Talkin’ Broadway, but starting April 9, he’ll prove to be quite a crooner himself on Wednesdays at The Duplex.

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Until next month, let’s hear it for the "boys"!

Wayman Wong edits entertainment for the New York Daily News. He has been a movie and theatre critic for the San Francisco Examiner and a Drama-Logue Award-winning playwright.