Review by Kiran Gupta
Hayden Tee is the definition of a seasoned professional. From a stint on the West End playing Miss Trunchbull in Matilda to performances all around the world as the iconic Javert in Les Miserables, there isn’t much that Tee has not done. Coming back to the Hayes Theatre after a stint directing Jekyll and Hyde, Tee was in fine form as he launched his new cabaret Bad Guy.
Why Bad Guy? Well, over the course of his accomplished career, Tee began to notice a trend – he would always gravitate towards the villain roles. When you hear him sing, this is understandable. After all, he is a rich, soothing and sometimes sly baritone voice that has the charm required to pull off some of the more unscrupulous individuals of the theatre world. But as Tee explained, it is often more than that. This led into a thorough exploration of the current socio-political climate as well as the climate surrounding Tee’s childhood which formed a stunning backdrop for the show.
Tee interspersed theatre classics with cabaret standards and pop songs throughout the show. Among the highlights included his gorgeous rendition of “Stars” (perfected through years in Les Mis) and his cheeky interpretation of Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy.” Overall, I felt Tee was at his best when he was singing classic musical theatre songs and I would have loved to hear a little bit more of that throughout the show. While the repertoire Tee chose was thematically significant and often quite eclectic, it lacked some of the weight that more popular baritone theatre songs tend to have. While the strength of Tee’s voice meant that the lack of weight was less noticeable, it still left something to be desired at the end of the show.
Another thing that shone through was Tee’s charisma on stage. He made the audience feel very engaged, as demonstrated through a rapturous standing ovation at the end of the show. It often felt as if he was talking to every single member of the audience, which is most necessary in the cabaret genre. Tee’s story of LGBTQIA+ acceptance was incredibly inspiring and the way Tee told the story (and demonstrated it through song) was very touching. Some of the material about the COVID-19 pandemic was perhaps less convincing at times but this secondary discussion did not take away from the primary message of acceptance throughout the cabaret, which was moving and powerful.
I also appreciated that Tee kept the show short, sweet and sharp. While I’m sure Tee’s powerful voice could have kept going for hours longer, he resisted the temptation to push the audience’s patience to its limit which meant that the show was even more appreciated. Tee’s band was also very strong, ably supporting him throughout the show and adding further power to his voice.
Overall, the thing that I will take away from the show is how remarkable Tee’s voice is. It’s rare to hear strong baritone voices headlining the stage and it is a treat when it happens. While I do wish there was a little more singing (especially of iconic songs) in the hour-long set, I think theatre-goers will be very lucky to see this show once Tee takes it on the road. I’d have to say, it certainly feels very New York…