A tough cookie Broadway veteran, with a big voice, tells the story of her life in song.
By Joel Benjamin
(January 6, 2015)
Amy Spanger is a bit of a throwback. She’s hardboiled, yet tender, like a Thirties Ginger Rogers showgirl, with a modern, Idina Menzel-like belt, hitting crescendos with a punch. There were a lot of crescendos in her program This Must Be the Place—her first solo go-around—at 54 Below. She strung her songs uneasily on the story of her life: leaving the Midwest for Broadway NYC; roommate problems; a disastrous marriage; a blissfully happy marriage; and…oh, yes, a very successful career in musical theater…on Broadway!
Her story began with a passionate “Don’t Stop Believin’” (Jonathan Cain/Stephen Ray Perry/Neal J. Schon) paired with a slightly nervous “Another Hundred People” (Sondheim), the quintessential newcomer’s song, the ending of which seemed to strain her voice (as it has for many a singer!). The former number became a running theme in the show, each time taking on a new meaning. She spoke of being entranced by Karen Ziemba in And the World Goes ‘Round—and how can anyone not be entranced by Ms. K.Z.?—and how she was inspired to use the title song for one of her auditions songs.
The tale of a schizophrenic roommate was dispatched with a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek rendition of “Crazy” (Willie Nelson) and her stint as a waitress at theater hangout McHale’s was honored with the theme from the TV sitcom, “Alice” written by David Shire and Alan & Marilyn Bergman.
Of course, she sang songs from the shows she appeared in, starting with a sassy “Always True to You in My Fashion” (Porter) from Kiss Me, Kate. “If I Were Your Woman” (Matthew Sklar/Chad Beguelin) from The Wedding Singer was repurposed to express her longing to wed her soon-to-be second hubby while “This Must Be the Place” from Elf, the Musical (also Matthew Sklar & Chad Beguelin) became a summing up, plus a sweet way to say good-night.
Ms. Spanger was a bit over-eager and her acting was not exactly subtle, but she is a great combination of girl-next-door and sexy broad, with a big, if hard-edged, voice.
The straightforward, but skeletal arrangements by her music director/pianist, Kris Kukul were given full-bodied performances by Shannon Ford on Drums, Jeremy Chatzkey on Bass and David Cinquegrana on Guitar.
This Must Be the Place – second show January 17th
254 West 54th St. (between Broadway & 8th Ave.)
New York, NY
Reservations: 646-476-3551 or www.54Below.com
More Information: www.amyspanger.com