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Bonnie Milligan Gets Happy at Feinstein’s/54 Below

Bonnie Milligan Gets Happy at Feinstein’s/54 Below

There’s just something irresistable about Bonnie Milligan. Maybe it is her self-effacing sense of humor, the warmth of her spirit, or her powerhouse belt.  But it doesn’t matter what her secret is. All that undeniable something drew a packed house to her final concert at Feinstein’s/54 Below on Sunday night.  

She opened her show with a Latin infused rendition of “Raise the Roof” that threatened to bring down the basement ceiling with the cheers of her audience.

Most of her legion of adoring fans at Feinstein’/54 Below seemingly saw her debut Broadway performances as Princess Pamela in the Go-go’s musical, “Head Over Heels”, proving that royal beauty doesn’t have to come in a size two.  Cleary, Ms. Milligan is not a woman to be denied, as she affirmed by singing Sondheim’s “Everybody Says Don’t.” 

As she cheerfully told us, she was delighted to be back from pretending her family home in Ohio was her favorite NYC karaoke place for the last year and a half.  Of course, It’s been a while anyway since she worked as a waitress at Landmarc Restaurant in the Time Warner Center, and only got to let loose vocally after work at Duet 53.  

https://youtube.com/watch?v=nU7GUz-gPjE

Behind all her deliberate casualness is a wickedly sly sense of humor. She had us all going when she claimed to have fallen in love while hiding from the pandemic in Ohio. Turns out she fell in love with Netfix, Hulu, “Golden Girls “, every season of “The Walking Dead,” and all of the Marvel superhero movies, in order, which she revealed with slides behind her as she sang a medley of “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was,” “Time After Time”, “Time Heals Everything” and “All By Myself”, bringing gales of empathetic laughter from her audience, most of whom have been equally housebound.

Ms. Milligan made no bones about having missed being onstage for all this time, comparing her love for the theater to “The Music That Makes Me Dance” and describing this year of isolation as equivalent to missing “The Man Who Got Away.”

After apologizing for too many ballads, she rolled out the cute and upbeat with her nod to the cheerfulness of Doris Day, and sang “Get Happy.”  She also tipped her cap to Cass Elliot singing “Make Your Own Kind of Music.”  

Ms. Mulligan’s money notes are her soaring, wailing belts. Great as she is, at times it felt like sitting through a day of “Wicked” auditions.  Also, her voice isn’t as strong or full in her lower register, and when she was mixed behind the drums, as she seemed to be too often,  it didn’t help her.   

However, her quieter moments were always filled with a powerful intimacy, as when she sang “She Used to Be Mine” from “Waitress.” 

She was backed in her show by a talented all female band consisting of Meg Zervouils (piano/MD), Sherisse Rogers (bass) and Rosa Avila (drums).   They provided solid support for an evening enthusiastically and successfully celebrating Broadway girl power.

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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