From Guffman to Spinal Tap at 54 Below
By Eric J. Grimm
Christopher Guest’s joyous mockumentaries received the Broadway treatment at 54 Below on January 22nd. A sprawling cast worked through most of the musical numbers from five of Guest’s beloved films in a rollicking and worshipping concert, directed by Robert W. Schneider, with musical direction by Joshua Zecher Ross. While the proceedings could’ve used some more polish, a few of the many performers tapped into the spirit of Guest’s lovable misfits.
A few dozen enthusiastic performers blasted through tunes Guest co-wrote with Harry Shearer, Michael McKean, and Annette O’Toole among others. Guest’s characters are gems who pop off the screen owing to a deep commitment to presenting genuine oddballs from his repertory of brilliant comedic actors. In concert form and with wide-eyed triple-threats, the sweetness of the characters was often traded in for pizzazz. The idea worked when performers were able to play it straight.
Allison Guinn was best able to embrace the bad community theater acting that made Waiting for Guffman a favorite for theater lovers. Kevin Zak similarly deadpanned to great effect during Guffman’s audition medley. The legendary Annie Golden was the sheerest embodiment of Guest’s comedy, selling herself as a rock goddess with “Sex Farm” from This is Spinal Tap. Golden could easily be in Guest’s repertory and is reason enough to present the filmmaker’s work in a concert format.
From Guffman to Spinal Tap played at 54 Below on January 22nd. For more of 54 Below’s programming, visit http://54below.com