Photo by Joshua York
It is not everyday that Tony Award-winning chanteuses drops by to entertain in the Windy City, so it was with great anticipation that Renee Elise Goldsberry took to the Auditorium Theatre’s landmark stage for a night of music and stories centered around love. Best known for her Grammy winning work as Angelica Schuyler in the blockbuster musical Hamilton, for which she was awarded the trophy in 2016 as Best Featured Actress in a Musical. True fans also know her as Evangeline Williamson from ABC’s daytime drama One Life To Live. Her time in the fictional town of Landview, from 2003-2007, left her with nights-off to repeatedly appear on Broadway. Pulling double duty, she also played Mimi in the closing company of RENT, Nala on Broadway in Disney’s The Lion King and Nettie Harris in the original cast of Broadway’s The Color Purple. Since 2021, Goldsberry is one of the leads on the Tina Fey penned Peacock musical comedy, Girls5Eva. This laugh-out-loud series chronicles the reunion and attempts to reignite stardom of a one-hit wonder girl band from the 1990s, of which Goldsberry plays self-absorbed diva, Wickie Roy. Tonight however was just about music.
Demonstrating her silky smooth vocals, the music selected ran the full genre gamut, including a mix of jazz, hip-hop, pop, blues, funk, soul and showtunes. Partnered with New York based Musical Director, Jordan Peters, and armed with a small band including Jeff Hanley on Bass, drummer Zachary Mullings, pianist Andrew Freedman and a trio of backing vocalists, Crystal Monee Hall, Kristina Nicole Miller and Tasha Michelle. The show opened with the Barbra Streisand classic “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever” & Jimmy Cliff’s “I Can See Clearly Now”. Sharing she has been touring off and on with this show since 2018, Goldsberry quipped whether “playing Red or Blue States, we are all linked through music”. Firmly a Blue City, she also joked in a contest for greatest city, “I think Chicago could win”.
She also took a moment to share how wonderful it was to be performing at the Landmark Auditorium Theatre. “There is so much history on this stage. Booker T. Washington. Aretha Franklin….and now me”.
Exclaiming this show is a “blatant attempt to manipulate you to fall back in love with love”she next crooned her way through Jeff Beck’s “Train to Jordan” and Patty Griffin “Up to the Mountain”.
Pausing for a moment of levity, she asked the audience “have you ever called home and regretted it?” Further explaining she face-timed her family earlier in the day, only to be met with squabbling and tears on the other end. Next she shared she is currently working on an upcoming “documentary about me produced by (Tony Award-winners) Kelli O’Hara and Audra McDonald.” The show will detail her delicate balancing act between Broadway success and becoming a parent. Admitting her shortcomings, she ended this segment exclaiming she prefers being a “better example if you’re not perfect at something.”
Storytime wasn’t over, sharing with gleeful pride “My name was dropped by the Queen of Soul!” as Aretha Franklin hit up Lin-Manuel Miranda in a often replayed voicemail for tickets to see Hamilton back in its heyday. Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, 1955 film Carmen Jones’ “Beat Out dat Rhythm on a Drum”, Nancy Wilson’s “(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am” and Henry Mancini & Sarah Vaughan “Peter Gunn” Theme filled out the middle of the show quite enjoyably.
The audition process can be a challenge for anyone. Goldsberry is no different, sharing part of her audition process for Disney’s The Lion King which was then scheduled to happen on September 11, 2001. Yes, THAT September 11th. One of the worst days in American history didn’t stop the taskmasters at Disney at looking for performers. Finding strength in song, she nailed the audition and subsequently joined the Broadway cast as Nala in 2002. She followed up the story singing that show’s “Shadowland”.
After a quick shout out and thank you to director Gary Griffin, in the audience that nice, it was time for the songs everyone came to hear. Sharing the career defining Hamilton was a “very, very good time” she started the ballad “Satisfied”, with audience members spontaneously filling in for the missing cast members segments of the song. Encouraging those same audience members to get up and dance, she ended this segment with a lively rendition of the empowering anthem “The Schuyler Sisters”.
The most touching moment of the show was a stunning rendition of RENT’s “Without You” acknowledging her appreciation for the “powerful storyteller, Jonathan Larson.” Joking she was “ending with a song from a musical I’ve never been in” the evening concluded with a lovely version of Carousel’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” At 51, Renee Elise Goldsberry is a determined dynamic diva with no signs of slowing down.
The Auditorium Theatre presents An Evening with Renee Elise Goldsberry in concert Saturday April 9, 2022
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).
Video by Magda Katz
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