Nice and Shiny: Ryan McCartan is a Star on the Rise
A bright, shiny shooting star passed across Broadway Monday night, in the person of Ryan McCartan. If you were lucky enough to be in the audience at Feinstein’s/ 54 Below on Monday night, you would have gotten a great glimpse at his talents.
At first glance, one might joke that it must be tough being Ryan McCartan. After all, what doesn’t this young man have going for himself? He’s strappingly tall, boyishly charming, achingly handsome, utterly genuine, with the voice of an angel and an army of eager young women ready to throw themselves at his feet.
But Ryan might tell you getting to where he is today was no joke. You don’t really know somebody, they say, until you know their pain. So, in a very intimate show that was equal parts casual, entrancing, and at times brutally honest, this rising young star of the musical theater shared the joy and the sorrow of his deepening experience in both musical theater and in life with an adoring audience.
For the most part, this talented singer, musician and songwriter backed himself up on acoustic guitar. He also used a clever gizmo called a Looper, which let him build rhythm backing tracks for himself right before our eyes. But for a few numbers, he was joined onstage by the piano talents of Garritt Taylor.
His set was organized to reveal both his personal struggles, and the serendipity that opened doors for him professionally. As a teen performer, he won the Jimmy Award, which led to his first trip to L.A. He shared the song he sang which won that award, “Someone To Fall back On,” by Jason Robert Brown.
In L.A., where he slept in his car and showered at the gym, his manager, Nancy, believed in him enough to take him into her home. The very next day, he landed a Disney TV show, Liv and Maddie. It was the producer of Liv and Maddie who brought him in to audition for the Off- Broadway production of the edgy teen-themed musical, Heathers. His performance of “Freeze Your Brain” from that show clearly showed why he was a hit in it.
But NYC was rough on Ryan personally. He found a song called “Dead Sea” by Wesley Shultz and Jeremy Fraites of The Lumineers, which he says helped him rise above. As the lyric goes, “You’ll never sink when you are are with me”. In case you don’t know, the salt content of the Dead Sea keeps people who swim in it perpetually afloat.
After Heathers, Ryan went back to L.A., where author Jodi Picault contacted him to sing a demo of a song called ”Something to Hold On To” from a new musical she was writing.
Then Kenny Ortega, the director-choreographer of High School Musical fame, called to invite him to audition for a new filmed remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He landed the role of the square-jawed hero, Brad. For this performance, he invited the delightful Brittney Johnson, notable as having been the first black Glinda in Wicked, to join him to sing, “Damn It, Janet.” Much to his credit, he made this song funny and charming in a way that Barry Bostwick never did as well for me in the original film.
He followed that with a song from the show also for Brad called “Once In A While” which was cut, with clear justification, when the stage play was first adapted to film.
His second guest of the evening was the lovely and talented Taylor Iman Jones, who currently is co-starring with him in Scotland, PA, the new Adam Gwon musical based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth. They sang a duet by Pentatonix called “Can’t Sleep Love” which was simply lovely.
But as Ryan told us, things turned darker for him after Rocky Horror. The film, which he hoped would make him a movie star and household name, bombed. Then his fiancee left him for another man, he was hospitalized for food poisoning, and worst of all (hey, he said it, not me) Donald Trump got elected. To illustrate his mood after all this, he sang “Don’t Wanna Fight” by Brittany Howard, a song I found more passionately spirited than articulate.
Ryan then turned to songwriting and released two albums of his compositions on Seventh Avenue Records. The one song he did from those albums, “Walk Away,” isn’t going to send me running to hear the rest of those songs. Ryan seems attracted to songs with simple, repetitive choruse that fly easily in the world of pop, but which seem inadequate in a Broadway environment. Nonetheless, he performed it nicely.
His next song was an interesting surprise. He sang a loving and passionate rendition of “My Man” from Funny Girl by Bob Merrill and Jules Stein. So, you might wonder, what’s a nice, straight musical theater boy doing singing that song? He explained after the song that his first and most beloved mentor in the musical theater was a man who molested him sexually as a theater teen. He spoke of this, and surviving the memory of it, with a surprising degree of acceptance and no bitterness. After all, he told me after the show, at the time he experienced that he saw it as a positive thing, to the extent that he looked up to and cared for his mentor. It’s possible to have good memories of an experience which turns out to be a bad thing. I could not help but admire his willingness to own every aspect of his life with grace and dignity. Click here to see our interview with Ryan on this subject.
He closed his set in a touching duet with his sister, Alison, whom he credits as his real musical inspiration. When he was just a young boy with his sister in the car, she started singing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, and Ryan joined in. That was when the family discovered Ryan could sing, and Ryan found he might have a calling. The chord changes and harmonies were at times unexpectedly funky. But that didn’t take away from the beauty and joy of their performance. Ryan’s parents were in the audience, too. He made us all feel like we were at a big family gathering, which I was glad to be a part of.
The long line of young women waiting to meet him after the show cemented my belief that Ryan is a Broadway star in the making. So be sure to catch him in Scotland, PA, and look for him to be a regular on The Great White Way for a long time to come.
You can see Ryan’s concert and hear his story at Feinstein’s/ 54 Below, 254 West 54th St. with special guest stars Taylor Iman Jones (Scotland, PA, Head Over Heels) and Brittney Johnson (Wicked) Nov. 11th and Dec 9th at 7pm.
My View: The Only Thing Missing Was A Latte ( with extra foam) Marcy & Zina Party at 54 Below
The only thing missing at last night’s party for Marcy and Zina was a Latte choice in the beverage section on the menu at 54 Below (with extra foam). The show, titled Make Your Own Party: The Songs of Goldrich and Heisler was conceived by Scott Coulter and performed by a cast of five. It celebrated over three decades of quirky, heartfelt and utterly contemporary romantic comedy songs written by Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich.
From “Taylor the Latte Boy” to under appreciated altos we were introduced to the cast of characters that inspired these inseparable, irreverent friends to write over three hundred and counting musical love letters to the city, the theatre, and the people who make them sing. The evening was filled with the heart felt stories that these two award winning women have created and was performed by a first rate cast of Broadway super singers. The lyrics, the music, the luscious harmonies…it was the best party of music I’ve ever been invited to.
The Performers: Jill Abramowitz, Cole Burden, Alex Getlin, Joe Kinosian, Kelli Rabke, and Austin Rivers.
Joe Kinosian,piano, Matt Scharfglass, bass
Marcy & Zina have been performing and writing together since 1992. Their critically acclaimed romantic comedy songs have been featured in venues across the world, recorded by artists across many genres, and appear in numerous folios and collected works. Their Off-Broadway musical Dear Edwina earned them a Drama Desk nomination, and other works have been produced by regional powerhouses such as Paper Mill playhouse, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Goodspeed, and the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. Their shows include Ever After, JUnie B Jones, and The Great American Musical, based on the bestselling book by auther/director Julie Andrews.
Reeve Carney: Singing The Divas
After countless sellout performances, Reeve Carney returned to The Green Room 42 to play another solo concert while starring in Hadestown on Broadway. He is best known for his portrayal of Dorian Gray on Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful,” Riff Raff in Fox’s Rocky Horror Picture Show Reimagining, as well as originating the role of Peter Parker in Julie Taymor/U2’s Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. For one night only Reeve performed a collection of songs traditionally sung by Broadway and vocal divas. Starting out was the perfect song to make us take notice. “Ladies Who Lunch” from Company, never sounded so nuanced, poignant or jazzy.
Next up was “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, “Beauty School Dropout” from Grease and “Losing My Mind” from Follies. Reeve’s girlfriend Eva Noblezada talked him into doing the later song. Reeve has a style that combines rockabilly flare with jazz and rock. It is unique and this spin adds a new take on these familiar songs.
Having shared a dressing room with Patti LuPone “Anything Goes” was sung as a tribute. Not leaving out the great Ethel Merman “”I Got the Sun in the Mornin’ (and the Moon at Night)” from Annie Get Your Gun was delivered ala Reeve Carney.
Dame Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger” was a tribute to the 007 genre and brought back memories of Jeff Buckley.
In high school Reeve was not in the schools plays but played “Whatever Lola Wants” for a production of Damn Yankees.
Judy Garland’s iconic “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” was done with pop excellence and a sweetness that made this song his own.
It was at this point that unfortunately I had to leave, as the concert started a half an hour late and if you take a bus out of the city on Sunday, the last one leaves at 11pm. I apologize profusely to Reeve, but was able to critique the rest of the show from a livestream.
Lena Horne’s jazzy, soulful version of “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess hit all the right notes. Liza Minnelli’s “Maybe This Time” from Cabaret was subtle and powerful.
On piano he brought Carol King’s,”Natural Woman” to life, but this version was inspired by Ms. Aretha Franklin.
Still on piano and singing one of his own songs “Up Above The Weather,” a hauntingly wonderful composiition. I look forward to when Reeve does write a Broadway musical.
Back on guitar a tribute to Angela Lansbury “Rose’s Turn” from Gypsy. If you have never heard Reeve’s take on these classic songs, you will hear a fresh, new and really different, but oh so unique vibe.
Closing out the night “There’s A Place For Us” from West Side Story.
Reeve is a musical genius, whose prowess on the guitar, piano and vocals is otherworldly.
You can catch Reeve on April 23, 2023 at 9:30 at The Green Room 42 singing his own music. Ask for “Resurrection,” this is one fabulous song.
Eva Noblezada Shines As She Grows Into An Exquisite Performer
Eva Noblezada at 26, is a two-time Tony-nominee and the star of Broadway’s Hadestown. She can be seen opposite Tony Award-winner Lea Salonga in the independent musical film Yellow Rose, Easter Sunday from Universal and she was in the Audible Theater’s Off-Broadway solo show Nostalgia: A Love Letter to NYC at Minetta Lane Theatre earlier this year. In her newest cabaret show “Let’s Go To The Movies” at The Green Room 42. Ms. Noblezada proves that she is a bonifided star, as she launched into Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman,” and “When Somebody Loved Me” from Toy Story.
Noblezada is now platinum blonde and is infectious, as she shares the most adorable stories mixed with powerhouse vocals. Case in point “Colors of the Wind” from Disney’s Pocahontas.
Ghost’s “Unchained Melody”became a haunting emotionally connected theatre piece. That is one of the best things about Eva, is that not only are the vocals stellar, but she feels every ounce of the lyric and brings it across the stage lights.
In her song choices you can totally see Ms. Noblezada becoming Mulan as she shared the wonderfully written “Reflections,” “Holding Out For A Hero” from Footloose and “Kissing You” from Romeo and Juliet made you want to cherish these flicks again.
My favorite number of the night was one I did not know. I now need to see A Walk To Remember, so I can hear “Only Hope” again and again. Her musical director Rodney Bush was another asset to this not to be missed evening of song.
One of Ms. Noblezada’s vocal hero’s is Liz Callaway and she paid tribute to her with “Journey From The Past” from Anastasia.
Showing off her dancing skills and sexual side “All That Jazz” from Chicago was a cheeky number with lots of sass.
Closing out the show was the classic “Moon River” from Breakfast At Tiffany’s done to perfection.
If you get a chance to see this talented songbird, do not miss the opportunity as Ms. Noblezada has not only grown as a person, but as a legitimate powerhouse performer.
Check The Green Room 42 and Chelsea Table & Stage for Eva Noblezada’s next performances. You will be glad you did.
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