‘All Bets Are Off’ for Betsy Wolfe at 54 Below

Betsy Wolfe (Photo: Sam Arce)

 

By Ron Fassler

 

Although Betsy Wolfe has titled her first-time solo cabaret show at Feinstein’s/54 Below “All Bets Are Off,” she could easily have called it “Here’s the Deal,” one of the go-to phrases she used throughout her fabulous 70-minute set last night. It made me think about how much she herself is the “real deal,” and this being the opening of a four-night engagement that continues this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the satisfying appeal of 54 Below’s attractive setting allows an ample opportunity to see for yourself.

Even before getting her BFA in musical theatre from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music—at age 20 and prior to graduation—Wolfe made her Carnegie Hall debut with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra under Maestro Erich Kunzel. Post-graduation, she starred in the San Francisco and Boston companies of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, then made her Broadway debut in the Roundabout revival of 110 in the Shade, later followed by another Roundabout revival, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. In 2010, her playing in both the Off-Broadway and Broadway productions of Sherie Rene Scott’s Everyday Rapture, proved prophetic, when in 2013, Wolfe found herself playing Cathy in the Off-Broadway revival of Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years, a role first created by Ms. Scott. Playing Cathy earned Wolfe great reviews and a lead in Woody Allen and Susan Stroman’s Bullets Over Broadway, as well as her being cast as one of “the lesbians from next door” in the 2016 Broadway revival of Falsettos.

 

 

Her latest success, was a seven-month run as the star of Waitress, which offered the 54 Below audience a chance to hear her extraordinary rendition of “She Used to Be Mine,” that show’s brilliant 11:00 o’clock number. Wolfe, whose high belt is only matched by her ability to bring it down to a hushed soprano, was in glorious voice all evening. Performing everything from Rodgers and Hart’s “Bewitched,” to Stevie Nicks’ “Landslide,” it felt as if there was nothing she couldn’t do. Her rendition of four songs from Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods, in which she essayed songs that are performed in that musical by Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, the Baker’s Wife and the Witch, made for a medley that not only showed off her suitability to all the roles, but made us yearn for her to have included Rapunzel as well.

 

But since The Last Five Years is a Mount Everest for so many musical theatre actresses, Wolfe reserved a place in her ten-song set to show off what she can with two numbers from that score. In her own 11:00 spot, she performed “I Can Do Better Than That” with awesome abandon, as well as an earlier version of the hilarious “A Summer in Ohio,” which brought the show’s composer to the stage as her accompanist. Although Jason Robert Brown didn’t upstage her, it was fascinating to watch him play his own composition, reading the music along intently, which only makes you realize how damn hard his stuff is—when even HE has to follow the notes so closely.

Backed up by a terrific band of musicians, led by musical director Andrew Resnick, currently conducting The Cher Show on Broadway, counted the accomplished Justin Goldner (guitar), Michael Thurber (bass), and Jared Schonig (drums) among its number. Whether wailing country-style to Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready,” or providing plaintive back-up Paul Heaton’s “You, the Mountain and Me,” their blend was a consistent joy.

One last thing: I should add that with Wolfe’s opening number being Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez’s “Please Like Me,” the “please” felt entirely unnecessary.

She had us at “hello.”

Photos: Melissa Griegel Photography

 

Betsy Wolfe at Feinstein’s/54 Below: All Bets Are Off plays at 7:00 p.m. March 6-9 (special guest Jeremy Jordan will appear at the March 7th show.

 

Tickets are available at https://54below.com/events/betsy-wolfe/

 

 

Share