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.
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 Crowd, Flora The Red Menace, Pickwick,Do I hear a Waltz, Man of La Mancha, Drat! 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’,Timbucktu, Dancin’) alongside some memorable original works (Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Working, Ballroom).
Every one of Mr. Siegel’s starry cast enlivened the wonderful selection of songs from these show with their amazing individual talents.
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.
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’).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Events For December
Cabaret, Talks and Concerts For December
Tis the season to be entertained. Here are picks:
92 Street Y: 1395 Lexington Ave. 12/2 – 4: Lyrics & Lyricists In the Key of Life: The Genius of Stevie Wonder. Led by Broadway’s Darius de Haas; 12/5: Recanati-Kaplan Talks Death, Let Me Do My Show: Rachel Bloom in Conversation and 12/14: Sharon Stone and Jerry Saltz Talk About Art.
Birdland Jazz: 315 West 44 St. Every Monday at 5:30 Vince Giordano and The Nighthawks and 9:30pm Jim Caruso’s Cast Party; Every Tuesday at 8:30pm The Lineup with Susie Mosher; Every Saturday at 7pm Eric Comstock with Sean Smith (Bass) & special guest Barbara Fasano (Voice); 12/11: Karen Mason for her annual Christmas show “Christmas! Christmas! Christmas!”; 12/12 – 16 Stacy Kent; 12/18: James Barbour returns to Birdland with his annual Holiday Concert: 12/21 – 25: “A Swinging Birdland Christmas” starring Birdland regulars Klea Blackhurst, Jim Caruso and Billy Stritch and 12/28 – 31: Marilyn Maye.
Cafe Carlyle: 35 E 76th St. 12/1 – 9: Sutton Foster; 12/12 – 16: Gavin DeGraw and 12/19 – 31: Michael Feinstein.
Carnegie Hall: 881 7th Ave at 57th St. 12/5: Christmas with Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith; 12/6: Dee Dee Bridgewater with Sean Jones and the NYO Jazz All-Star Big Band; 12/13: Michael Feinstein and Jean-Yves Thibaudet and 12/22 – 23: The New York Pops The Best Christmas of All with Norm Lewis
Don’t Tell Mama: 343 W. 46 St.
Dizzys Club Coca Cola: Frederick P. Rose Hall, Broadway at 60th Street.
Alec Wilder Tribute
Devotees of the Great American Songbook have another reason to love living in New York. Yes, cabaret shows of the music of Porter, Rodgers et al abound here of course, but once a year there is a loving tribute to a lesser-known composer. Some of us may have even passed him on West 44th Street as he was leaving his home in the Algonquin Hotel. This dapper gentleman was Alec Wilder, a musician who wrote classical pieces as well as songs. He wrote words and music, and sometimes let the likes of Marshall Barer, Fran Landesman and even Johnny Mercer supply lyrics. There are a few of these titans who can have one foot in Tin Pan Alley and the other in Carnegie Hall. George Gershwin comes to mind immediately; Cole Porter dabbled but reverted to what he could do best. Wilder also wrote American Popular Song/The Great Innovators 1900-1950, a volume respected by those who love the music of that era.
The Friends of Alec Wilder presented their 38th Annual Concert for an audience of seriously devoted fans of Wilder on November 11th at 54 Below.
Mark Walter, FOAW Board Member and son of noted pianist and friend of Wilder’s Cy Walter, introduced Honorary Host Steve Ross, who along with the ever-amiable Eric Comstock interspersed the music with anecdotes about Wilder which rounded out the portrait of the gentleman being painted so effectively by the rest of the cast.
The afternoon began with one of Wilder’s chamber works, presented lovingly by The Wilderness Trio. Eric Comstock followed, summing up Wilder by saying that his music never went out of vogue because it was never in vogue. Wilder is like that secret ingredient that once having tasted it, one yearns for it thereafter. Eric sang four songs, infusing I’ll Wait with his ineffable sass and charm before being joined by his wife, the spunky and gorgeous Barbara Fasano, who made each lyric come to life in ways Wilder would have appreciated. Sean Smith provided bass support, and the trio which has been a mainstay at Birdland illuminated Wilder’s deep emotional grasp of the human condition.
The Wildebeest Wind Quintet followed with the Alice in Wonderland Suite, which showed Wilder at his classically playful best. Jason Henderson carried some of that lightheartedness into his segment, with two songs that benefited from his natural charm and enthusiasm. Steve Ross made the heart ache a bit with his rendition of the plaintive Did You Ever Cross Over to Sneden’s? before closing the program by encouraging everyone to join him in singing I’ll Be Around, perhaps the best known of Wilder’s songs.
If your interest in Alec Wilder has been piqued, visit alecwildermusicandlife.com.
Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Sutton Foster and Kelli O’Hara With The NY Pops
One Night Only: An Evening with Sutton Foster and Kelli O’Hara with the NY Pops is happening Friday 8pm, at Carnegie Hall. This unique program by NY Pops conductor Steven Reineke, pays homage to earlier icons of stage and screen who teamed up for memorable concerts.
T2C Talks To Paul Iacono, Unfiltered
Actor and writer Paul Iacono, best known for the films Fame, G.B.F., and MTV’s “The Hard Times Of RJ Berger,” returns to The Green Room 42 in “Paul Iacono, Unfiltered,” His bawdy evening of excess and exposé happens tonight Friday, November 17 at 9:30 PM. T2C had a chance to talk to this 3 decade seasoned performer.
Paul Iacono, is best known for his portrayal of the title character on MTV’s “The Hard Times of RJ Berger.” Paul was first featured on “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” at age eight, after she discovered his unique talents for impersonating Frank Sinatra and Ethel Merman Favorite stage credits include Mercury Fur (The New Group), Bridget Everett’s Rock Bottom (Joe’s Pub), Noël Coward’s Sail Away with Elaine Stritch (Carnegie Hall), John Guare’s Landscape of the Body with Lili Taylor and Sherie Rene Scott (Signature Theater), and The Dark at the Top of the Stairs with Donna Lynne Champlin and Michele Pawk (Transport Group). Favorite film credits include MGM’s remake of Fame, Drew Barrymore’s Animal, Darren Stein’s G.B.F., Extracurricular Activities, and Dating My Mother with Kathy Najimy. Iacono’s play Prince/Elizabeth premiered at The Teatro LATEA Theater co-starring Sofia Black D’Elia and Peter Vack, and The Last Great Dame (loosely inspired by his relationship with Elaine Stritch) at Jane Friedman’s HOWL! Happening Gallery. His cabaret “Where’s the Fucking Kid?” premiered at 54 Below, with “Psychedelic Hedonism” following at Joe’s Pub (New York Magazine “Critic’s Pick”), and “Psychedelic Playhouse” at The Green Room 42.
Join Paul for a surreal vaudevillian celebration through the highs, lows, and misadventures from his past five years out of the spotlight. Directed by Eric Gilliland and written by Iacono, Paul weaves insanely personal and wildly hilarious moments from Hollywood to 42nd Street and beyond, accompanied onstage by music director Drew Wutke, with music consulting and arrangements by Peter Saxe.
Paul Iacono, Unfiltered on Friday, November 17 at 9:30 PM at The Green Room 42 (570 Tenth Avenue at 42nd Street, on the 4th Floor of Yotel).
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