by Sheila Watko
The house was packed and paws were up at Feinstein’s/54 Below on January 8th as musical theater’s biggest Little Monsters came out to prove that Broadway’s love for Lady Gaga is hardly a perfect illusion. Over a dozen Broadway performers and rising stars took the stage to honor the trailblazing Golden Globe winner in a glitter-soaked evening featuring some of this generation’s most beloved songs.
54 Sings Lady Gaga was musical directed by Luke Williams, produced by Jenn Maley (who managed to squeeze in a timely and hilarious reference to Gaga’s much-used “there could be a hundred people in the room” speech) and Benjamin Nissen and assistant produced by Lauren Echausse. The band included Megan Talay on guitar, Andi Buch on bass, Joshua Roberts on drums and Williams on piano. Six songs in the set were backed by a talented ensemble of Anne Bragg, Gregory Driscoll, Asher Dublin, Jason Goldston, Samantha Littleford and Jenna Najjar.
The show kicked off with an incandescent “Bad Romance” performance from Lauren Marcus, who entered in full Gaga garb with a black veil over her face before ripping it off and working the entire room, posing at tables and belting on the stage. One of my favorite performances of the night came from Taylor Iman Jones singing “Diamond Heart” with such power and control that she left me speechless… which was my other favorite of the night; Nathan Salstone strummed on his acoustic guitar while singing a stripped-down version of “Speechless.” Morgan Siobhan Green shone on her runs at the end of “The Cure” and Charlotte Malby absolutely nailed the “Perfect Illusion” key change. Brian Charles Rooney made a dramatic entrance when he lit up the room – literally – with a glowing scepter during “Love Game” and admitted he couldn’t see anything through his rhinestone-encrusted glasses. David Rowen sang a beautiful, gentle rendition of “Million Reasons” before Talia Suskauer switched the mood with an incredibly fun, high-energy “A-YO,” a song I hadn’t heard before (and I now think that I prefer Suskauer’s version to the original). Joseph Allen and Mackenzie Dad alternated parts in a fantastic “Just Dance/Poker Face” mashup and sounded particularly strong when they sang in unison at the end. Isabella McCalla impressed with both her vocals and her ability to chug an entire water bottle in “You & I.” She also handed the instrumental break over to the talented band for a solo. Destinee Rea and F. Michael Haynie performed the Golden Globe-winning “Shallow” and Carrie St. Louis started “The Edge of Glory” out as a gorgeous ballad before rocking out for the second half of the song. The show ended with Annie Golden turning the energy up to an eleven and tearing up the stage with “Born This Way.”