NY Cabaret Review by Joe Regan Jr.
Adam Shapiro found his boyhood dream come true when he was cast in a major part in the TV movie of Larry Kramer’s “The Normal Heart” and got to be interviewed on the red carpet of the film’s premiere showing at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York. He’s bursting with pride now because the movie won the Emmy for best TV Movie. Shapiro’s previous cabaret show “Guide to the Perfect Breakup,” a laugh riot, won the 2013 MAC Award.
“Nothing Normal,” Shapiro’s personal new show presented September 2 at 54 Below, had a sold out audience cheering. He wisely chose a first rate production team: Peter Napolitano as director, Barry Levitt as musical director and piano, Tom Hubbard on bass and electric bass, and Ray Marchica on drums and percussion. There were two sexy backup singers: Erin Cronican and Samantha Northart who, more than back up, did a lot of stand up comic bits with Shapiro. Shapiro had a very special guest, Danielle Ferland from “Into the Woods” original cast. When he bounced on stage in a black suit with a glittering gold vest, “Comedy Tonight” was a brief intro to Weird Al Yankovic’s crazy philosophy of life “Everything You Know Is Wrong,” a bizarrely funny set of rapid lyrics.
Shapiro, identifying himself as a gay bear type, followed that with Dr. Seuss’ “Waltzing With Bears” which may have had the funniest set of lyrics of the whole evening. He then talked about how his mother, seeing him dance and sing in front of their TV, bought a second hand baby grand piano for him. The beautiful description of that was delivered in Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman’s “Secondhand Baby Grand.”
When he first got to New York, he got his first part in a touring version of “Jewsical, the Musical” and we got the great “Farblonjet and Farplotzed” by Marvin Laird and Joel Paley, a comical torch love song.
Changing into a more severe vest (he admitted he made himself), he sang a beautiful ballad called “Looking” which was in the genre of Rupert Holmes’ “The People That You Never Get To Love.” This song was by Levitt and Napolitano and I was surprised to learn that it had been submitted for a MAC original song some time ago and didn’t make the first cut! It’s full of landmark New York sites, looking for the eyes of the one who will respond to his love search. There was another Napolitano song, this one written with Matthew Martin Ward, called “I’d Rather Be Doing This,” listing cunningly all the things he’d rather do than make love.
The center section was Disney and fairy tale themed. First, a lovely “Disneyland,” then “The Headless Horseman Song” from a cartoon. Then he brought on Ferland who sweetly reprised “Moments In The Woods” from “Into the Woods.” She stayed on stage for a very special version of Kander and Ebb’s “The Grass Is Always Greener,” with lots of original lyrics by Shapiro to keep his gay character. It was a laugh riot.
Shapiro told funny audition and back stage stories on the filming of “The Normal Heart,” his relationships with his co-stars including Ferland and Julia Roberts, and we saw a slide of his audition outfit. This led to his breathtaking singing of David Friedman’s “We Live On Borrowed Time.”
The last number was a terrific sing-along of “Always Look On the Bright Side of Life” from “Spamalot.” After the standing ovation, he had to do an unrehearsed encore but Levitt passed the pages out and we all continued to have a jolly time.
Adam Shapiro is a New York treasure and his great “Nothing Normal” is bound to be repeated at 54 Below. Don’t miss it! It’s also perfect for sponsored parties, especially during Halloween time.