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Cabaret

Boffo Broadway By the Year at Town Hall

Boffo Broadway By the Year at Town Hall

For nineteen years, creator/director/writer/host Scott Siegel has been keeping our musical theater heritage fresh and vital for new audiences, in his time specific tribute shows to Broadway musicals of the past at the Town Hall, called the  Broadway by the Yearseries. I wish I could say I was here to see most of them, but I wasn’t.  However, I was there Monday night to be blown away by a stellar assemblage of singing, dancing and instrumental talent, who brilliantly reimagined and recreated some of the best moments from the Broadway shows of 1965 and 1978. 

Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
Kelly Sheehan, Scott Siegel, Douglas Ladnier and Danny Gardner

As Mr. Siegel made clear in his lively and entertaining survey of both world events and backstage stories from those times, 1965 was a pretty memorable year.  We sent our first troops to Viet Nam, Dr. King marched to Montgomery, and the Beatles played Shay Stadium, just for starters.  The shows of that year represented here (The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the CrowdFlora The Red MenacePickwick,Do I hear a WaltzMan of La ManchaDrat! The Cat, Skyscraperand On a Clear Day You Can See Forever)all had some powerhouse songs, and the hits just kept on coming all through the first act. While 1978 gave us Son of Sam, Ted Bundy and Jonestown, it also offered shows which largely brought back great songs from the past (Ain’t Misbehavin’,TimbucktuDancin’) alongside some memorable original works (Best Little Whorehouse in TexasWorkingBallroom). 

Every one of Mr. Siegel’s starry cast enlivened the wonderful selection of songs from these show with their amazing individual talents.  

Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
Ethan Slater Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy
Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
Ethan Slater Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

If you only think of Ethan Slater as the squeaky and juvenile Sponge Bob, you should have seen how dashing and manly he was in this performance. His expressive face, high style, and genuine panacheevoked for me the memory of young Anthony Newley.  So it was very appropriate that he sang “On A Wonderful Day Like Today” (Greasepaint…) by Newley and Bricuse. But he was equally compelling with “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” from the Lerner/Lane show of the same name, and on the power ballad,  “If I Ruled the World” from Pickwick. Mr. Slater has some real chops. 

Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
LiAnne Marie Dobbs Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy
Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
Bryan Hunt and LiAnne Marie Dobbs Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy
Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
 LiAnne Marie Dobbs Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy
Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978

LiAnne Marie Dobbs, Danny Gardner and The Broadway bu the Year Dance Troupe that includes-Lamont Brown, Bryan Hunt, Danny Mchugh and Michael Verre Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy
Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
LiAnne Marie Dobbs Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy
Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
LiAnne Marie Dobbs Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

Lianne Marie Dobbs is an unabashedly sexy vixen, with a trilling soprano and a smouldering smile. She performed the romantic “He Touched Me” (Drat! The Cat!) and the earthy “It’s All The Same”(Man of LaMancha) with equal ease. She also was a little wicked, singing Fats Waller’s “Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now” (Ain’t Misbehavin’).

Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
Rick Faugno Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy
Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
Rick Faugno Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

Baritenor Rick Faugno sang a warm, romantic version of “Who Can I Turn To” (Greasepaint….) and the intimate ballad, “The Mason” (Working). I hope to see more of him in the future. 

Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
Corbin Bleu and Rick Faugno Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy
Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
Corbin Bleu Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy
Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
Corbin Bleu Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

Hoofer Corbin Bleu sang and danced his way through “Everybody Has the Right to be Wrong (Skyscraper), creating a lighthearted physical interpretation of a dancer who can’t quite nail the steps. Then, both Mr. Bleu and Mr. Faugno tapped their way brilliantly through “Sing, Sing, Sing” (Dancin’), to floor-and-pulse pounding choreography by the versatile Mr. Faugno.

Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
Nicole Hudson Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy
Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
Betsy Wolfe Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

I had the opportunity earlier this year to review cabaret shows at 54 Below by both the angelic and versatile Betsy Wolfe, and the steamy jazz diva, Nicole Henry. Both women are so beautiful, so engaging, and sing so wonderfully that they made me exhaust my thesaurus looking for superlatives to describe them in their cabaret shows. But each of them actually shone even brighter in this presentation.   

Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
Betsy Wolfe Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy
Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
Betsy Wolfe Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy
Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
Betsy Wolfe Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy
Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
Betsy Wolfe Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

Ms. Wolfe has a range of styles that is both authentic and glorious, as she shifted effortlessly between country (“Doatsy Mae” from Whorehouse), and legit musical theater (“Someone Woke Up” from Rogers & Sondheim’s Do I Hear a Waltz? and“A Quiet Thing” from Kander and Ebb’s first show, Flora…) I could have listened to her sing all night, while basking in that radiant smile of hers.

Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
Nicole Henry Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy
Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
Nicole Henry Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy
Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
Nicole Henry Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy
Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
Nicole Henry Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

Ms. Henry, a sultry thoroughbred poured into a dress, sang the most uniquely original arrangement I have ever heard of “Feelin’ Good” (Greasepaint…), as well as the heartfelt “Why Did I Choose You?” (The Yearling) and the Fats Waller classic, “Honeysuckle Rose.” She sang the later directly to Mr. Siegel at his podium, nearly melting him into it.  

Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
Douglas Ladnier Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy
Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
Douglas Ladnier Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

Baritone Douglas Ladnier has a lighter timbre to his voice, which doesn’t always seem suited to the heavy material he is given as a towering leading man.  But there is no one who brings a more interesting presence to the stage. Working against the Broadway stereotype, he squints at us like Clint Eastwood taking aim, and growls at times like Tom Waits on a bender. So while I’ve heard beefier renditions of “The Impossible Dream,” (Man of LaMancha), I can’t imagine a more compelling version of “Hard Candy Christmas” (Whorehouse…), which he sang with a level of intimacy and pathos that just tore me up. He also gave a fine performance of the soaring ballad, “Stranger in Paradise” (Timbuktu).

Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
Danny Gardner Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy
Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
Danny Gardner Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

Singer, dancer and choreographer Danny Gardner choreographed the precision work of the Broadway by the YearDance Troupe:  Lamont Brown, Bailey Callahan, Bryan Hunt, Brooke Lacy, Lily Lewis, Danny McHugh, Kelly Sheehan, and Michael J. Verre. He led them in two outstanding musical numbers: “Nothing Can Stop Me Now” (Greasepaint…) and “I Wanna Be a Dancin’ Man” (Dancin’). They were both simply fabulous, reflecting character suiting the material, as well as technical prowess.

Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
Michael Verre, Bailey Callahan, Danny Gardner, Bryan Hunt and Brooke Lacy Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy
Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
Danny Gardner and the Broadway by The Year Dance Troupe that includes Lamont Brown, Bailey Callahan, Bryan Hunt, Brooke Lacy, Lily Lewis, Danny Mchugh, Kelly Sheehan and Michael Verre Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

But there just isn’t any way to adequately praise Mr. Gardner’s choreographic work for the rough Muleteers from Man of LaMancha,stomped out as he and the men of the BBTY Dance Troupe circled around Aldonza (Lianne Marie Dobbs) while she sang “It’s All the Same”. Combining tap and just plain rhythmic brilliance, Mr. Gardner created an intricate, emotional, heart pounding, percussive accompaniment that played perfectly against a soulful solo guitar played by Jake Owen. I’ve seen a lot of productions of LaMancha, where this song is normally introduced only by a little bit of hand clapping. This was simply the most brilliant staging of this song I ever expect to see.  I only wish it could be interpolated into the show for the future.

Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
Nicole Henry and Don Falzone Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

The musical genius guiding all these performances was series musical director, Ross Patterson. His richly textured piano accompaniment and tasty arrangements were supported by the subtle drumming of Eric Halvorson, and the outstanding bass playing of Don Falzone.

Photo Coverage: Ethan Slater, Betsy Wolfe, and More Perform at BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: 1965 & 1978
Ethan Slater and The Broadway By The Year Cast

So if you think you remember these years and these shows well enough that there’s no need to revisit them in this format, think again. If you value talented performers over expensive scenery, Mr. Seigel’s Broadway by the Yearpresentations are some of the best bang for the buck on Broadway. Don’t miss The Broadway Musicals of 1987 & 2015at Town Hall on June 17. 

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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