Tovah Feldshuh: Aging is Optional

Tovah Feldshuh

 

Review by Brian Scott Lipton

 

If aging is indeed optional, Tovah Feldshuh has clearly made the choice not to do so. Seeing her on the stage of 54 Below reprising her 2013 show of the same name (albeit in a revised version), the extraordinarily talented star – a multiple Emmy and Tony Award nominee — not only looks far younger and fitter than most women of her age group; she also exhibits boundless energy, jumping from character to character and bouncing from song to song with almost reckless abandon, in this remarkably entertaining act.

Indeed, over the course of 75 minutes, Feldshuh effortlessly and believably transforms herself into a variety of women: not just her own loving grandmother and mother (who urges her, in the words of Carole King, to be and feel “Beautiful”), but also a mother of two young children (singing Maury Yeston’s gorgeously heartfelt “New Words” to them), a 20-something woman accepting a marriage proposal (a simple yet stunning version of Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”) and a hyper-critical mother visiting her estranged daughter (the hilarious “Where’s the Bathroom,” which she performed on the hit CW Comedy “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”).

A comic genius, Feldshuh gets her biggest laughs sporting a red beret and a flawless French accent while singing “Mon Amour,” in which the brilliant writer Ray Jessel has strung together dozens of French words and phrases. Put together, they mean nothing at all. But they mostly rhyme – and we mostly laugh our heads off.

Equally adept at drama, Feldshuh disappears into the souls of a not-so-long-ago tomboy (in Dar Williams’ haunting “When I Was a Boy”) and a not-so-happily retired worker, Brooklyn accent and all, reminiscing about his past and putting a bright face on his present (in Craig Carnelia’s superb story-song “Joe,” from the Broadway musical “Working”). Little trace of the actress remain in these standout numbers. She is  musically directed by James Bassi with direction by Jeff Harnar.

Of course, as she lets us know, Feldshuh really can do anything: she’s climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and swung on a trapeze on Broadway. (The act is framed by her call from producer Broadway producer Barry Weissler to do the role of Berthe in “Pippin” and includes the character’s big song, the rousing “No Time at All.”) And if at show’s end, she implores us, using the lyrics of Bob Dylan, to stay “Forever Young,” we have no doubt Feldshuh will be the one taking her own advice – and doing yet another version of this show for appreciative audiences a decade down the road.

“Aging Is Optional” plays Feinstein’s/54 Below (254 West 54 Street, Cellar) on August 1 and 3. Visit www.54below.com for tickets.

 

 

 

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