54 Sings Broadway’s Greatest Hits!

 

 

by Steve Nardoni

 

 

Most who have had the privilege of seeing and enjoying Hamilton are a diversified (and young!) crowd who adoringly embrace the novelty, creativity, wit, and power of that show. Additionally Hamilton’s overwhelming popularity confirms that Broadway musicals are not stagnant, and can morph into refreshing facsimiles of what came before. And all we have to do is look at the cutting-edge work so well done by Stephen Sondheim to know that he had changed the nature of musicals forever.

BUT…(you heard that “BUT” coming!) those composers who preceded Lin Manual Miranda and Sondheim were all at the cutting-edge during their times of glory. So 54 Sings Broadway, has been a series dedicated to showcasing the standards that “made your heart soar…and that you used to sing in the shower.”

Sing in the shower? Last night I wanted to grab the mic and sing “Broadway Baby” myself. But the audience would have then missed Hunter Ryan Herdlicka’s earnest crooning of that classic Sondheim from Follies, historically performed by “mature” songstresses. He nailed it, summoning up with mellow tones the yearning to get “just a tube of greasepaint and a follow spot” and snag a role in a Broadway show. He later outshone himself with a lilting rendition of “No One Is Alone” from Into the Woods.

Scott Siegel, the creator of this series, sprinkled his intros with some really cool tidbits about some of the songs. And Ross Patterson at piano provided the talented background music for the performers.

The first, and oldest song, “Thine Alone,” from Eileen, was sung sans microphone, as was done in the original production, by William Michals, an affable baritone who can really hold a note. He later sang “Where or When” from Babes in Arms (in between sneaking bites of mac and cheese from his mom’s table: singing is hungry work!)

And the rest of the performers were equally impressive, belting out a lineup of great showtunes. Lianne M. Dobbs packed a wallop with her rendition of “I’m in Love with a Wonderful guy” from South Pacific (without having to add cartwheels as Mary Martin did in 1949.) Ms. Dobbs also pleasingly trilled “Someone Like You” from Jekyll & Hyde.

 

Judy McLane (who had some nice things to say about Trevor Nunn) did renditions of “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” from Showboat and “Someone Else’s Story” from Chess, which were both velvety and sweet. Kea Chan was an audition finalist for the recent revival of Miss Saigon. Her rendition of “I’d Give My Life for You” from that wonderful show evoked heartache and poignancy “I Can Do That,” from A Chorus Line, was tapped and rapped by Joshua Israel who snared the audience with his singing and dancing skills.

Mark Nadler stole the show, however. At piano keyboard his perky, staccato delivery of “All That Jazz” from Chicago wowed the crowd. But it was his rendition of “Cell Block Tango” from the same show that took my breath away:

Pop! Six! Squish! Uh uh, Cicero, Lipschitz!
Pop! Six! Squish! Uh uh, Cicero, Lipschitz!
Pop! Six! Squish! Uh uh, Cicero, Lipschitz!

With that mantra Nadler introduces us to the “Six Merry Murderesses of the Crookem County Jail” (Liz, Annie, June, Hunyak, Velma and Mona) and oh what women they are! His interpretation of each of the girls was hilarious as was his explanation of his unorthodox moves around the piano: “It’s MY Fosse!!!”. And I swear he was channeling Melania Trump when he spat out Hunyak’s Hungarian denial of guilt.

So I liked Hamilton. It is already a classic. How fortunate we are to have a repertoire of classics to enjoy and enjoy, again and again, and to look forward to the up and coming classics yet to be! And if you have never been to 54 Below, get there. The venue and staff are wonderful and the food is outstanding. Treat yourself!

Written, directed and hosted by Scott Siegel. Musical direction (piano) by Ross Patterson. Presented at Feinstein’s/54 Below, January 26, 2017. Starring Kea Chan, Lianne M. Dobbs, Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, Joshua Israel, Judy McLane, William Michals, and Mark Nadler.

254 West 54 Street (cellar)

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