A Jerome Robbins’ Centennial Concert

(L-R) Kathleen Marshall, Matt Doyle, Laura Osnes, Beth Malone, Aaron Finley

 

 

 

By Ron Fassler

 

On May 8th, in the second of three shows at Feinstein’s/54 Below, in its “Classic American Songbook Series,” Deborah Grace Winer  presented “A Jerome Robbins’ Centennial Concert,” dedicated to musicals associated with the esteemed director-choreographer. Simply put: it was about as perfect as one show can get. At exactly one hour’s running time, it was tight as a drum, with song selections that were right on the money. With limited patter, it was all about the performers (and the A+ material), featuring a handsome and highly skilled quartet of actor-singers: Matt Doyle, Aaron Finley, Beth Malone and Laura Osnes. With talents like these Broadway veterans, excellence was all but a guarantee.

Guest created, hosted and directed with charm and ease by three-time Tony Award winner, Kathleen Marshall, much was made of a song salute being a different way to go in saluting Robbins, considering how his skills as a choreographer are what have made him such an icon. This made Marshall’s choice to eschew dancing on the tiny stage at 54 Below a smart one (if somewhat ironic). The opening song, “Gotta Dance” from Look Ma, I’m Dancing (1948), was performed by Matt Doyle, who barely moved a muscle, allowing the audience to luxuriate in his beautiful voice—a device that would serve as a template for what was to come throughout the evening. I seriously question whether there is anyone better that Laura Osnes, considering the beauty of her voice and alluring stage presence. Her “Neverland” from Peter Pan (the first musical Robbins had a sole choreography and director credit) was luxurious in feeling and tone. And with “It’s a Perfect Relationship” from Bells Are Ringing, Osnes hit every comedic high note. Beth Malone nailed every one of her songs, from the bravado of “Some People,” to the plaintive “Hello, Young Lovers,” to the jazzy hilarity of “I Can Cook Too.” The only member of the cast I wasn’t familiar with was Aaron Finley, who excelled with “A New Town is A Blue Town” from The Pajama Game, as well as a deadpan turn in the contrapuntal duet “You’re Just in Love” from Call Me Madam (accompanied by Beth Malone, out-Mermaning Merman).

Laura Osnes

Jerome Robbins’ mark on the American musical is without peer. He either directed, choreographed, co-choreographed, supervised or play doctored dozens of shows between 1943 and 1964. He was the most in-demand talent on Broadway during that period, and the celebrations this year in honor of his hundredth birthday are a reminder of his genius. Born October 11, 1918 In Manhattan, he grew up there and never left. The very first show he ever choreographed was 1944’s On the Town, which paid homage to New York City like no show had ever done before.

David Chase musical directed the evening (currently represented on Broadway with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel). His playing was so graceful, it seemed at times there were more musicians on stage than just a single pianist. Deborah Grace Winer is to be commended for producing this series, the next one coming up June 17th .  Titled “Till There Was You: A Celebration of Barbara Cook,” the cast is to include Tony Award nominees Christine Andreas, Kate Baldwin, Rebecca Luker and Christiane Noll; Linda Purl, and Tony Award winner Karen Ziemba. If it’s anything like “The Jerome Robbins’ Centennial Concert,” it will be a must-see.

Photos: Bruce Cohen

 

The Jerome Robbins’ Centennial Concert (May 8th, 2018)

Feinstein’s/54 Below, 254 W 54thSt., NYC.

A Jerome Robbins Centennial Concert, Directed by Kathleen Marshall with Laura Osnes, Beth Malone, Matt Doyle, and Aaron Finley!

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