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, 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.