This review of Frans Bloem's Beyond Borders at The Metropolitan Room was written by Christopher M. Struck and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Starring Frans Bloem
Musical Director: Steve Sandberg
The Metropolitan Room
34 West 22nd Street
New York, New York 10010
We drank. Frans sang. Only a handful of us may have been able to stop clapping to take another drink. He went to find a missing guest performer. We chatted briefly. She appeared. Raucous fun and laughter ensued. We looked away. Frans was back and as in form as ever. Who was she? Who did the wildly entertaining Frans sneak in and out with barely a word from his own mouth? An alternate persona by the name of Maxine who turned an already good show great and left an indelible impression on the crowd. Trotting in on 7-inch pumps, affectionately nicknamed stripper stilettos, Frans really strutted his stuff whilst thanking his "mommy" and "poppy" for giving him great legs even if he didn't have their help along the way to achieving his goals.
But my oh my has Frans Bloem come a long way since starting as a street performer in Paris at 17. He may have traded washing dishes in the City of Lights for washing dishes in the City That Never Sleeps, but he certainly doesn't have to wash anyone else's dishes today. Frans has made a career of overcoming adversity by showing a myriad of crowds, in a variety of languages, that he can put on a show. Since that first move from The Netherlands to Paris, he has now become a worldwide boulevardier even donning an expertly tailored white jacket that he was gifted for performing in Hong Kong.
Few people can ever dream of having such a successful career. Few people can afford to finance a life in New York City as a singer. Frans has shown he can do a little bit of everything. He created a certain level of mystique even before donning the white gown and Maxine personality. A large part of this was due to his song choice which featured a heavy dose of foreign songs especially from France sung in French, German and Dutch. The majority of the songs were in English and some of them were age-old classics such as "Brother Can You Spare A Dime." Although no longer contemporary, the majority of the audience recognized them immediately. Certainly, these songs were particular crowd favorites and I especially liked his song about an avocado tree), which was part of the climax of the show. Frans seamlessly transitioned from language to language helping to relate to us how he became the man he is today. This idea took a special resonance when dressed as a woman, Frans sang, "What Makes A Man A Man." Apparently, the first time he sang that song dressed as Maxine for an American crowd, he received enthusiastic applause from a predominantly female crowd.
Regardless of song choice, Frans also maintained, combined with his certain sense for the exotic, a flair for the dramatic. He certainly used his skill with languages, but admittedly his accent may have also helped increase that foreign feeling. This feeling of stepping into another world was added to by Frans's uncanny ability to sense the mood of the crowd and grow with them as the show progressed. As we grew more excited, Frans became more and more animated playing off of our emotions. He moved along the stage, called out members of the audience, and threw his hands out in gestures at powerful moments. He was helped in this by the excellent pianist, Steve Sandberg. Steve helped create this sense of a building as well by dancing up and down the scales on the piano. As the choruses ended, Steve gave a little twist of his own that helped create a sense of harmony between piano and performer. These got more daring as the performance went on and gave the sense that the pair had been working together for a long time.
I greatly enjoyed Frans' show, and it seemed like everyone who attended was brought to life by Frans' smooth voice. His confidence fell off of him like feathers from an angel's wings. I do hope Frans stays home in New York and performs for us a few more times, but I would completely understand if he took a gig in Amsterdam. If you have a chance to see his new show, Beyond Borders, see it. Even if you are expecting the surprises that he has in store, you will be impressed. Thank you, Frans, for living a true New York Story and showing us that the mantra "all are welcome" means something to someone somewhere. For more information about Frans Bloem, you can visit his website at www.FransBloem.com