Broadway’s Best Musical Comedy Stars

A joyous celebration of offbeat, whacky songs performed by a cast whose enthusiasm was contagious.

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Evan Pappas

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By Joel Benjamin

 

Broadway’s Best Musical Comedy Stars at Feinstein’s/54 Below was just what the doctor ordered after a week of dreadful news: a breath of life affirming fresh air, a whacky, upbeat program of Broadway oddities engagingly performed by a cast whose enthusiasm was contagious and directed by Evan Pappas.

Kate Wetherhead, deliciously thin and big voiced, hosted, holding the show together with wit and energy. She also showed off her comic chops in several songs, like the actor’s insider ditty “I Got a Reading” performed with the eternally youthful Andrew Keenan-Bolger and a wondrously youthful “Big Blue World” (Robert Lopez/Kristen Anderson-Lopez/Thomas Newman) from Finding Nemo sung with Evan Pappas.

“Comedy Tonight” (Sondheim) was the perfect opening number giving each of the guest artists a chance to show off their shtick and vocal prowess.

Todd Buonopane had second and third and fourth thoughts about his new lover who wanted to bring him to “Burning Man” (Jeff Blumenkranz). Of course, passion triumphed over sanity, as it did in “Miss Byrd” (Maltby/Shire) sung by a wide-eyed Sally Mayes who introduced this very funny song about a still-waters-run-deep office worker in the original Closer Than Ever. Seeing Mayes do this song with the same wicked tone brought back many memories.

Will Roland, so brilliant in Dear Evan Hansen, had the perfect combination of nerdiness and innocence in “Floozies” (Claibe Richardson/Kenward Elmslie), a teen’s absurd fantasies about loose women. Catherine Walker gave the Bock/Harnick number, “Gorgeous” from The Apple Tree a semi-operatic treatment which fit the self-worshipping tone of this song.

Most of the numbers were novelties such as “The Unrequited Lover’s March” (John Treacy Egan) which set love’s frustrations to a 2/4 beat. Eddie Korbich sang the hell out of it. On the opposite side of the romantic spectrum was “I’ve Decided to Marry You” (Steven Lutvak/Robert Freedman), a mini-farce, complete with slamming doors from The Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, beautifully acted and sung by a gorgeously confounded Scarlett Strallen, a put-upon Eddie Korbich and a charmingly well-mannered Catherine Walker—all of whom appeared in that show.

Ann Morrison went from the bluesy “Getting Over You” (John Kroner/Gary Gardner) to the arch “There Are Fairies at the Bottom of My Garden” (Liza Lehmann/Rose Fyleman), making this Beatrice Lillie favorite her own.

Travis Kent’s elegant good looks made his breakdown in “The Plane Is Going Down” (Eric Day/Ryan Scott Oliver) all the more hilarious while Steve Rosen fearlessly played a shlub in “Don Jose from Far Rockaway” (Harold Rome) making this working class Casanova an absolute hoot.

Though it’s difficult to judge these sensational musical theater artists, for me, the highpoint was Evan Pappas’ tirelessly hard-driving and funny “Buddy’s Blue” (Sondheim). He almost tore himself inside-out right to keep up the frenetic pace of this classic expression of romantic confusion.

Jeffrey Lodin on piano was perfection.

Broadway’s Best Musical Comedy Stars – June 16, 2016
Feinstein’s/54 Below
254 West 54th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue
New York, NY
For reservations and information, call 646-476-3551 or visit www.54Below/com/Feinsteins

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