Seasons of Love with Anthony Rapp at Feinstein’s/54 Below
Anthony Rapp has been performing onstage since he was 9 years old. So it’s not surprising that the star of such musicals as “Rent”, “Hedwig and the Angry Itch” and the 1999 revival of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” should create a cabaret show for Feinstein’s/54 Below based on the chronology of his life as a performer.
These songs were “snapshots”, as he said, of particular moments in his life. For this evening, he chose moments in time from shows with which he had been affiliated, or writers he admired, or songs he had written that captured particular emotional moments for him. Many of those were deeply melancholic and filled with longings such as we all feel from time to time.
I would have liked a little more sharing of his personal relationship to some of the material he chose to set up that chronology, besides that it came from a show he had done or a writer he admired. But on Sunday night at 54 Below, Mr. Rapp let the music speak mostly for itself.
Mr. Rapp has an irresistible, natural pop/rock voice, and he is drawn to such songs which suit him, as well as musical theater songs. From the very beginning, Mr. Rapp took us to an emotional landscape much rockier and darker than the typical, upbeat cabaret show would do.
His opening number, “Losing My Religion” as recorded by R.E.M., was the story of an unrequited love by a “hurt, lost and blinded fool”. He followed that with “Origins of Love” from “Hedwig,” another song of emotional heartache which describes love as emerging from the anger of the primitive gods. “You had blood on your face; I had blood in your eyes. The pain down in your soul… was the same as the one down in mine…we called it love.”
Rock songs tend to be more poetic and oblique than traditional musical theater songs. So it took a while for my ears to tune in fully. It was also a surprisingly dark way to start a show, although fully in keeping with the emotional tone of the evening.
As a performer, Mr. Rapp deeply embodies the emotional struggle of the Everyman, which we all feel privately from time to time. “Creep” from “Feeling Electric” (the early version of “Next to Normal”), “Waving through a Window” from “Dear Evan Hansen”, “Everybody Hurts” also as recorded by R.E.M., and his gender bending version of “Wait For It” from “Hamilton” were a few of the songs that shaped the intense emotional center of his show. His voice grew in power, and the emotions grew in depth, with each successive song, drawing us in until the entire audience was deeply moved by his intimacy.
His selections included several songs he had written himself. All of them, including “Perfect,” “Now I Know”and the ode to his dying mother, “Visits to You,” were quite good. As cabaret is so much about direct connection with the performer, I really enjoyed being given this very personal musical window into his own life experience.
Of course, not every song was a Greek tragedy. He lauded Cyndi Lauper for her personal strength and positivity as a performer before giving a heartwarming rendition of her song, “True Colors.” Towards the end of the evening, he became Charlie Brown again for us, to sing “Happiness” from “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” By that point in the evening, the innocence and positivity of a theatrical six year old brought a welcome moment of emotional release.
He concluded his show with the stunningly beautiful “Without You” by Jonathan Larson, and the iconic, upbeat “Seasons of Love” from the show that made them both famous, “Rent.”
Much credit for the beautiful musical texture of the evening is due to his multitalented musical director, Daniel Weiss, who bounced effortlessly from piano to guitar and provided lovely, unobtrusive harmony vocals. Peter Schon’s soulful playing of the cello was the perfect emotional complement to them both.
Mr. Rapp’s show was an evening marked by his genuine humility and deep connection to the aching soul in all of us. It touched everyone as much as it clearly moved Mr. Rapp himself as a performer.
The Marvelous Marilyn Maye Received Twelve Standing Ovations At The New York Pops
Karen Akers, Jim Caruso, Tony Danza, Jamie deRoy, Max von Essen, Melissa Errico, Bob Mackie, Susie Mosher, Sidney Myer, Josh Prince, Lee Roy Reams, Rex Reed, Randy Roberts, Mo Rocca , Mark Sendroff, Lee Roy Reams, Brenda Vaccaro and David Zippel were there to see and honor Cabaret legend and Grammy nominee Marilyn Maye. Maye who turns 95 April 10th, made her at Carnegie Hall solo debut last night with The New York Pops, led by Music Director and Conductor Steven Reineke.
Maye is a highly praised singer, actress, director, arranger, educator, Grammy nominated recording artist and a musical treasure. Her entire life has been committed to the art of song and performance and it showed with the 12 standing ovations she received.
Maye appeared 76 times on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, she was “discovered” by Steve Allen and had a RCA recording contract, seven albums and 34 singles.
The evening started out with the superlative New York Pops Overture of Mame, which Maye had played the title role.
Next a Cole Porter Medley with “Looking at You,” Concentrate On You,” “I Get A Kick Out Of You,” It’s Alright With Me,””Just One of Those Things,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” and “All of You”. This was Marilyn’s second standing ovation. The first was when she stood on that stage for the first time and the audience was rapturous.
A terrific “It’s Today” from Mame with high flying kicks was the third ovation and wow can that woman kick.
A rainbow medley included “Look To The Rainbow” from Finnian’s Rainbow, the iconic “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” the jazzy “Make Me Rainbows” and of course “The Rainbow Connection.” And with that another standing ovation.
“Put On A Happy Face” from Bye Bye Birdie.
Frank Loesser’s Joey, Joey, Joey brought on a fifth standing ovation. This song was a masterclass in acting and vocal nuance. For that matter every song that comes out of Ms. Maye’s mouth is perfection. Part of the brilliance of this night is her musical director, arranger, and pianist Ted Firth. That man is a genius.
Lerner and Loewe’s “On The Street Where You Live” from My Fair Lady ended the first act with a sixth standing ovation.
The overture from Hello Dolly! and then Cabaret shows Marilyn Maye also starred in opened the second act. The New York Pops sounded phenomenal as always.
“Your Gonna Hear From Me” from “Inside Daisy Clover was an appropriate starter for this next round as the audience got to its feet.
Maye’s most requested song “Guess Who I Saw Today” from New Faces of 1952 was followed by a show stopping “Fifty Percent” from Ballroom and of course another standing ovation.
Her next song was chosen by the Smithsonian Institute to be included in its permanent collection of recordings from the 20th century. Her recording of “Too Late Now” is considered by the Smithsonian to be one of the 110 Best American Compositions of the Twentieth Century and Ms. Maye showed us why and again another standing ovation.
A proclamation from The City of New York read by Steven Reineke to Marilyn Maye made this day Marilyn Maye Day. This treasure cried with joy as she sang Stephen Sondheim’s “I’m Still Here.” Though she forgot some of the lyric, Ms. Maye proved performing is all on the intent and connecting to the audience. Two more standing ovations were added here.
For encores, I was thrilled to hear James Taylor’s “Circle of Life” and “Here’s To Life,” which is my personal favorite, finally going back into “It’s Today” with those high kicks and a twelfth standing ovation. Bravo Ms. Maye!
If you are a singer and do not catch Ms. Maye live, you really do not care about your craft. Last night Ms. Maye made it clear why she’s been celebrated as one of America’s greatest jazz singers for more than 50 years and this was a night I will always remember. Thank-you New York Pops.
Don’t miss the Pop’s 40th Birthday Gala: This One’s For You: The Music Of Barry Manilow on Monday, May 1st. The gala will star Sean Bell, Erich Bergen, Betty Buckley, Charo, Deborah Cox, Danny Kornfeld, Norm Lewis, Melissa Manchester, Zal Owen, Eric Peters, Blake Roman, Billy Stritch, Steven Telsey, Max von Essen, Dionne Warwick, and more to be announced. This will be yet another New York Pop’s Night not to miss.
My View: It’s Today! It’s Tonight! Marilyn Maye Rehearses For Her New York Pops Carnegie Hall Debut
Sometimes you have to pinch yourself at the opportunities you are presented with. TODAY would be one of those. Or as Marilyn Maye might sing to you, “It’s Today.”
This afternoon I had the privilege of witnessing the 95 year old star, rehearsing on the stage of Carnegie Hall, under the baton of Maestro Steven Reineke, in front of the mighty New York Pops Orchestra. It all happens tonight and has been a lifetime in the making. As if The New York Times piece, bylined by Melissa Errico, wasn’t enough to whet your appetite for what is sure to be a historic evening, maybe these photos will help get you even more excited. Thank you to all who made this happen for me, to present to you….Humbly Yours, Stephen
THE GREEN ROOM 42 Presents Tony Award-nominee Sharon McNight Celebrating 40 Years of Stories And Songs
THE GREEN ROOM 42 will present Tony Award-nominee Sharon McNight in “Surviving Cabaret,” a storied look back at the last forty years of notable performances, on Thursday, April 13 and Saturday, April 15, both at 7:00 PM. McNight is known for her “no holds barred” approach to performing, which has earned the entertainer multiple honors and two Lifetime Achievement awards. She is famous for making audiences laugh and cry at the same show with her eclectic bag of musical choices, which include blues, country, Broadway, comedy, parody, impressions and accompanying stories. She will be joined by musical director James “Jim Bob” Followell.
Sharon McNight began her career in San Francisco, and made her Broadway debut in 1989 in Starmites, creating the role of Diva. She received a Tony nomination as “Best Leading Actress in a Musical” for her performance, and is the recipient of the Theatre World Award for “Outstanding Broadway Debut” and a Hirschfeld drawing of her character. She has six solo recordings to her credit, and has played from Moose Hall to Carnegie Hall, from Los Angeles to Berlin. In addition to her two Lifetime Achievement awards, she has won the MAC, Bistro, and New York Nightlife Awards, and six San Francisco Cabaret Gold Awards.
Her eclectic repertory ranges from blues to country to good old-fashioned entertainment. She is noted for her movie reenactment of The Wizard of Oz and for being one of the few real women to impersonate Bette Davis. Her television credits include “Seinfeld,” “Silk Stalkings,” and “Hannah Montana.” McNight received her Masters of Arts degree in direction from San Francisco State College and was a master teacher on the faculty of the Cabaret Conference at Yale University. She says the greatest day of her life was the day she quit smoking.
Sharon McNight will perform “Surviving Cabaret”on Thursday, April 13 and Saturday, April 15, both at 7:00 PM, at The Green Room 42 (570 Tenth Avenue at 42nd Street, on the 4th Floor of Yotel). The cover charge ranges from $30-$50. A livestream option is available for both shows at $20 each. For tickets, please visit www.TheGreenRoom42.com.
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