By Melissa Griegel . . .
Amy Spanger (Kiss Me Kate, Chicago, Rock of Ages, Matilda the Musical) sparkled as she greeted the Feinstein’s/54 Below audience in her newly-designed David Josef black sequined outfit. She gave a shout out to the red-carpet fashion designer, who came down from Boston to see her show. “He is such a generous and wonderful man. And has been making masks for everyone all pandemic.” There were several patrons at the show donning David Josef masks including me, Christian Borle, Skye Mattox, Richard Skipper, Daniel Forrester, and Irwin Karabell.
March 2020 was particularly rough for Spanger. Just as Broadway was shutting down and the world was launched into a full-blown pandemic, Spanger lost her mother to Alzheimer’s. “It was a hard, scary time.” she said. “But the pandemic gave me time to chill and get my bearings. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get up and do this again. Here I am, and I am so grateful to be here tonight.” She dedicated the song “You’ve Got a Friend” to her mom.
A huge fan of composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb, half of Spanger’s set consisted of Kander and Ebb songs including songs from the musicals Steel Pier, Cabaret, Flora and the Red Menace, and Chicago. She opened the show however, with Stephen Sondheim’s “Broadway Baby”.
A general theme for the night included Spanger singing songs from roles she would love to play on Broadway. These included Sally Bowles’ song “Maybe This Time” from Cabaret, Audrey’s song “Somewhere that’s Green” from Little Shop of Horrors, and Heidi Hansen’s “So Big, So Small” from Dear Evan Hansen. She sang the latter so convincingly that I could immediately see her taking over the role of Evan’s mom in the show.
Happy to be out of a bad marriage, and in good one right now, she invited husband Brian Shepard (My Fair Lady, Something Rotten!, Guys and Dolls) to join her on stage. Playing the guitar on stage for the first time, he lovingly and humorously sang Adam Sandler’s “Grow Old with You” to his adoring wife. The show’s Musical Director and pianist Paul Masse was a perfect fit for the show since he is very familiar with Kander and Ebb songs and collaborated with Kander on The Scottsboro Boys. The on-stage musicians were rounded out with Justin Rothberg on guitar and Sarah Hewitt-Roth on the cello.
Spanger said she had “the thrill of playing Roxie Hart in Chicago” and invited Lana Gordon (Chicago, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Lion King) to join her on stage. Gordon recently played Velma Hart in the musical and sang and danced with Spanger for two numbers: “My Own Best Friend” and “Hot Honey Rag”. The Fosse choreography and the collaboration of these two great performers brought the audience to their feet. After thanking everyone for coming and talking about how much she loves New York, Spanger ended the show with two songs made famous by Frank Sinatra: “New York, New York” and “Same Old Song and Dance”. There was nothing old about this refreshing new show and it was such a delight to see Spanger and Gordon together on stage.
Photos by Melissa Griegel