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Adam Gwon Makes More Friends at Feinstein’s/54 Below

Adam Gwon Makes More Friends at Feinstein’s/54 Below

You may or may not know Adam Gwon’s name or work.  His sung through, debut musical, “Ordinary Days,” was well received at the Roundabout Theater in 2009, and continues to be licensed, bringing his work to an increasingly larger audience.  In the interim, Mr. Gwon has won just about every award an up and coming musical theater writer can hope to do.

In an intimate evening of cabaret at 54 Below on Saturday night, Mr. Gwon treated us to some of the conversational story songs which distinguish him as a writer. Mr. Gwon was at the piano with an exceptional guitarist and arranger, Andy Zinsmeyer, by his side. They shared the stage with a cadre of Mr. Gwon’s talented musical theater performer friends. By the end of the evening, even the strangers in the audience were his new friends too.

Mr. Gwon opened the show with a song called “Warming Up,” in which he expressed his happiness at being back in front of a live audience again for the first time in nearly two years. 

Diana Huey then sang “Alaska,” a politically inspired cabaret song about a girl and her male friend who had moved up north. Ms. Huey is a bundle of musical theater talent I want to see more of in the future.

Etai Benson

Etai Benson, who has the boyish charm of a young Paul Rudd, joined Ms. Huey for the romantic duet “Just Curious,”from Mr. Gwon’s musical, “String,” about a security guard who falls in love with one of the three fates …who seemed an awful lot just like a resident of the building.  He followed that with the solo “Kick Ass Party” from Gwon’s musical, “Scotland, P.A.,” in which he became amusingly drunker as the song progressed.

Diana Huey, Etai Benson

Sarah Lynn Marion shared the song “Other Lives,” also from “Scotland, P.A.” about certain residents of a sleepy Pennsylvania town.  In this song, a young woman tries to cope with the emotional pain of having had an absent mother.  One of the joys of attending songwriter showcases is the chance to discover amazing new talents.  Ms. Marion is one such exceptional performer, whose depth of emotion and passionate delivery, along with her very warm, fine singing voice, make her a Broadway star waiting to be discovered.

Sarah Lynn Marion

Ms. Marion teamed with Zachary Noah Piser on the love duet, “Clairvoyant”. Mr. Piser followed that with the very cleverly turned lyrics of “Why I Love Football,” which, it turns out, has to do with the singer’s sexual obsession with one of the football players. Mr. Piser has a cuddliness that makes me want to see him as Snoopy in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Casting directors, take note!

Adam Gwon, Sarah Lynn Marion

Kyra Kennedy expressed frustration with her fictional life in “Don’t Wanna Be Here.”  She later closed the show with “Favorite Places,” a song with a very clever turn in which, after singing about geographic locations, she sings that the favorite place she will never visit is the heart of her beloved.  Ms. Kennedy will be going off soon to do the debut production of the new musical based on the film, “Mystic Pizza.”  I look forward to seeing it, and hearing her again. 

Kyra Kennedy

The last but not least of his talented performer friends is Ciara Reneé.  She has eyes which are big, open windows to her soul and a voice to match.  That made her another favorite of the evening for me.  She sang “Uncharted Territory”and the deeply moving, “I’ll Be Here,” which was probably my favorite song of the evening.

Diana Huey and Andy Zinsmeister

No question, Mr. Gwon is a keen observer of the human condition, and someone who will be writing an important chapter in the story of the next generation of musical theater creators.

Cabaret

Jeffery Lyle Segal is a multifaceted theater artist who has worn many professional hats. He started as a musical theater performer in his teens. He attended Stanford U., Northwestern University, and SUNY at Binghamton to study acting, directing and dramatic literature. He also wrote theater reviews for The Stanford Daily and was Arts Editor of WNUR Radio at Northwestern. After college, he is proud to have been the first full time Executive Director of Chicago’s acclaimed Steppenwolf Theater Company. He left them to work as a theater actor and director. His special effects makeup skills got him into the movies, working on the seminal cult horror film, Re-Animator.He also did casting for several important Chicago projects, sometimes wearing both production hats, as he did on Chicago’s most famous independent movie, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. While living in Los Angeles, he joined the Academy for New Musical Theater, where he developed two book musicals as a composer, lyricist and librettist, Down to Earth Girl (formerly I Come for Love, NYMF 2008), and Scandalous Behavior! (York Developmental Reading Series 2010). He wrote, produced and performed his song “Forever Mine” as the end title theme of the horror film, Trapped! He also has written songs for his performances in cabaret over the years, and the time he spent pursuing country music in Nashville. Most recently he created a musical revue, Mating the Musical, for the Chicago Musical Theater Festival 2016. In NYC, he has attended the BMI musical theater writers’ workshop, and the Commercial Theater Institute 14 week producer program. He is currently creating a company to develop new musicals online. He still keeps up his makeup chops, working with top doctors in NYC and Chicago as one of the country’s most highly regarded permanent cosmetic artists (www.bestpermanentmakeup.com) and as a member of Chicago local IATSE 476. www.jefferylylesegal.com

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