Feinstein’s/ 54 Below was packed to the rafters, as Kyle Dean Massey took to the stage. With his powerhouse vocals and charismatic storytelling Mr. Massey draws a crowd. His credits are impressive, and his fans from Broadway (Pippin, Next to Normal, Wicked and Xanadu) and TV (Nashville, The Good Wife and Inside Amy Schumer) gather to hear what he will sing from the shows he was in, but didn’t get to sing.
Massey won me over when he started out with the Sondheim, tuner from Dick Tracy “More” and did it well. Next up a jazz version of Stephen Schwartz’s “Simple Joys from Pippin. Massey is adept at patter songs and manages to get every nuisance in, even though they are wordy, which is impressive.
Taking the notch down the next three songs “History of My Heart” from Nashville by Chris Gelbuda and Kylie Sackley, “Somewhere Only We Know” by Tim Rice-Oxley, Tom Chaplin, Richard Hughes from the band Keane and “I Miss the Mountains” from Next to Normal by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, showed heart.
Introducing us to his husband, Taylor Frey who stared in the wonderful show The View UpStairs, the loving couple sang the theme song from that show written by Max Vernon.
Back in dance mode the rousing Whitney Houston anthem “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam rocked the house.
Changing it up a bit was the Leonard Bernstein song from Songfest “To What You Said.” Mr. Massey showed a depth of range in this song as well as a strong vocal technique.
Beyoncé’s “Freedom” and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s
“How Far I’ll Go” f rom Moana,” were the eleven o’clock numbers, leaving the audience on a high note.
My favorite piece of the whole evening was a mash up of the “Finale” from Pippin and “So Anway” from Next to Normal. Arranged and conceived by Massey’s musical director and pianist Benjamin Rauhala, this arrangement was smart as melodic.
Massy’s encores contained Jason Robert Brown’s “It All Fades Away” from The Bridges of Madison County and “Defying Gravity” from Wicked. It was here for me, that the show lost its momentum. In it “It All Fades Away” Massey’s weaknesses were shown. Vocally he is not as controlled or as delicate with lyric as Steven Pasquale and the song accented this. On “Defying Gravity” Massey was running out of steam and the voice sounded forced and strained. However Massey redeemed himself on “I’m Alive” from Next to Normal and ended in a blaze of glory.
Massey was backed by stellar musicians, which include Eric Davison on guitar, Alexandra Eckhardt on bass and Jeff Roberts on drums.
Massey’s charm will make you want to see this well thought out show, but his openness and his ability to engage will keep you coming back. As for singers looking for a fabulous musical director Benjamin Rauhala, was equally as impressive.
Kyle Dean Massey at Feinstein’s/ 54 Below July 11-15