Clive Barnes schreef 9 december in de NEW YORK POST

New dutch import:
Less would be more

THE streets of Amsterdam are made of water, the bicycles are oiled with rain. You sit at cafe tables covered with carpets and drink an aromatic, pungent potion they think is gin.
Amsterdam, which I love, is an acquired taste. So, I imagine, is Herman Van Veen, who opened his one-man show with musicians at the Ambassador Theater last night. And Van Veen was not even born in Amsterdam. He loudhails from Utrecht.
His show is called Herman Van Veen; All of Him. All of him might be too much, and at times it is too little. He is very Dutch. With his seawater eyes, angular bones and martyr-face of ribald protest, he even looks like a minor character from a whole gallery of Dutch and Flemish old masters.
He is a comedian and musician, singer and violinist. He mimes. He rides a bicycle. When at a loss for a grimace he climbs a wall. He starts out as a Dutch Rip Taylor - showering his audience with Indonesian rice - and ends, or nearly ends, as a French Victor Borge.

He reminds you of others in other places at other times. Jacques Brel, of course. Van Veen is rather less civilized, but if you are Flemish you have to be civilized, while if you are Dutch you can stay Dutch.

He has something in common with Harry Chapin. His songs tell ordinary stories of ordinary people - the wasted housewife, or the male prostitute on the street corner waiting to service the next gay Mercedes cruising by. But Chapin had more point. Van Veen has more substance than focus. He gets lost in his own rhetoric. His points - losing something in translation, perhaps? - are all too simplistic. His messages run riot with mottoes.
When he tells us - at length - that "Cowards live because they're clever, heroes die, but live forever" you wonder what he has done to his mind, or at least where he has left it.
This is the strangeness of Van Veen - a cult figure in Ho11and and popular throughout Europe. He is prankishly inconsistent. He can be mawkishly sentimental one minute, or sickeningly manipulative, then suddenly his face will wipe off that moment and he will become a caged, ferocious tiger.
The humor is schoolboyish and physical. With his blond, balding hair, framing a cherubically wicked face, he can flail around the stage like a Peter Sellers trying to imitate a Jacques Tati. He is nothing if not subtly obvious, except when he is obviously subtle. Yet his timing is immaculate. He is a remarkable, if singular, musician, and is backed up by a superb band. He is a violinist and pianist, and he has a particular genius for making percussive music out of, say, the skin of a double bassa, or the frame of a piano. He gets grotesque fun from a spastic tap dance, or singing gibberish scat.
He can be childlike - in doing comic walks across the stage, for instance, - or miming a traffic catastrophe hits audience is expected to find amusing, as opposed to an atomic holocaust.
He can be sophisticated. Witness his terrific virtuosity in playing the piano with his backside while producing a credible parody of Stravinsky's Les Noces.
For Broadway he needs far less freedom than he allows himself at present. Van Veen wanders all over the lot, cheerfu11y believing that his very presence is the justification of entertainment. It isn't. There are long loguers - not helped by his nervi1y smug self-assurance.
Less of Van Veen would be more - but when he is good he can be tremendous. His director and collaborator, Michael Lafallle, needs a firmer hand. It would give us a stronger show.

Clive Barnes

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