By Brian Scott Lipton
The music of Queen, the much-honored (but shockingly never Grammy-winning) UK-based supergroup of the 1970s and 1980s, has enjoyed a cultural resurgence in recent years. Many of its hits have been featured on TV shows like “American Idol” and “Glee” (as well as a couple of popular commercials) and a 2014-15 worldwide tour featuring Adam Lambert has set records. But can Broadway voices do true justice to their iconic songs and, especially, the stylings and enormous vocal range of its late lead singer Freddie Mercury?
The answer turned out to be a resounding yes at 54 Below on Monday, January 12 with “54 Sings Queen,” a brilliantly executed selection of a dozen or so of the group’s classic numbers – plus a few lesser-known titles – organized and hosted by the charismatic T. Oliver Reid. The evening began with a bang — Constantine Maroulis’ remarkable rendition of Queen’s most famous song, the semi-operatic “Bohemian Rhapsody” –- after which performer after performer almost literally tore the house down, guided by a magnificent four-piece band led by the ultra-talented pianist Tracy Stark.
Former “Hair” star Bryce Ryness was sex appeal personified as he wailed “Don’t Stop Me Now,” and later returned with a soaring version of “Save Me.” The gorgeous Mailand Torres brought her strong voice, searing intelligence, and heartfelt passion to “I Want to Break Free” and “Too Much Love Will Kill You.” Marty Thomas emerged in full Freddie Mercury drag (complete with fake mustache) to deliver the infectious “Another One Bites the Dust”; Amy Spanger had us singing along on “Somebody to Love”; Rob Maitner gave the delicious “Fat Bottomed Girls” a full shot of gusto; and Marissa Rosen wowed the crowd with a sizzling “Old Fashioned Loverboy.”
Meanwhile, Mark Rinzel and Chris Hall, members of the cover band Jessie’s Girl, showed off stunning harmonies on “Under Pressure,” and the sweet-voiced Enrique Segura (a member of “The Lion King”) was properly pensive on “You Take My Breath Away”, but threw caution to the wind while tearing into the naughty-naughty “Tie Your Mother Down.”
Intriguingly, given that Queen was an all-male band, the evening’s highest kudos belong to two special ladies. Adinah Alexander, a longtime piano bar staple and Broadway favorite, served up a jaw-dropping medley of “We Will Rock You” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” that could probably be heard outside on West 54th Street, while the magnificent Farah Alvin, who can belt to the heavens, did a version of “The Show Must Go On” that rivaled any I’ve heard, before concluding the 80-minute performance with Queen’s signature closer “We Are The Champions.”
Indeed, these gifted performers proved to be champion rockers, and the audience lucky enough to be in the house could count themselves as big winners!
Queen Sings 54. Monday, January 12 at 7pm and 9:30pm at 54 Below (254 West 54th Street).