By Ron Fassler
If 20 years is the arbitrary cut-off when a couple begins to feel the test of time in their marriage, then Orfeh and Andy Karl only have another year to go before all hell breaks loose. Fat chance of that happening, since they effortlessly appear to be a simpatico showbiz couple in all things: life, art, and everything in between. Their terrific cabaret show Legally Bound is no less than a love affair between each other and their audience, and last night’s opening at Feinstein’s/54 Below— the first night of four shows scheduled through this week and next— is definitive proof that they’re the real thing. And man, can they sing!
No strangers to working together, Orfeh and Karl met while both were in the 1999 production of Saturday Night Fever on Broadway (marrying immediately after the show closed). They were reunited in 2007’s Legally Blonde, where they played opposite each other as Paulette and the UPS Man (“Bend and Snap”), and most recently Karl had the starring role of Edward Lewis in 2018’s Pretty Woman, featuring Orfeh as Kit De Luca. They have been performing Legally Bound off and on for years now, making their time, energy and pure love of performing shine like a well-polished jewel.
Backed up by four musicians and three singers (led by musical director and superb pianist Steven Jamail), it was the first of my many, many visits to Feinstein’s/54 Below where the place totally rocked! Of course, most of the time I’m watching the likes of Chita Rivera or Sierra Borgess, incredibly gifted performers who tend more towards Broadway show tunes rather than rock and roll. And although Orfeh and Karl’s credits hardly skimp on the likes of Broadway, Legally Bound is geared more towards a mix of pop, rhythm and blues, and a heavy dose of down and dirty, rip-roaring rock. Motown was represented in a medley at the top of the show, followed by songs from One Direction, Babyface, George Michael and Prince. And believe me when I tell you that when Orfeh pounced on “Piece of My Heart” (Bert Berns and Jerry Ragavoy): She out-Joplin’d the one-and-only Janis, seemingly surprising herself with her commitment to it. There’s no other way to describe it but as a knockout (pun intended, as Andy Karl did give us a touch of Broadway early on when he sang a song from the 2014 musical Rocky, in which he starred).
When Orfeh channeled her inner Whitney Houston in “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” her voice was situated in her sweet spot (which is nothing like Whitney’s), growling and hitting top and bottom notes that were other-worldly. This was my first experience seeing her on stage and it was a revelation. And to watch Karl retreat to the background— joining the backup singers during her turns at centerstage— was a lesson in marital support and sweet devotion. They kept the patter to a bare minimum throughout their 80-minute set, and when they did it felt unscripted and genuine. The show’s direction is credited to Charles Randolph-Wright (director of Motown: The Musical), who guided the proceedings with an unseen, though sure hand.
A live-in-concert CD of Legally Bound (also performed at Feinstein’s/54 Below and recorded in December of 2016) is available online. In the meantime, see if you can make it to Feinstein’s/54 Below before Monday January 27th. This is one hell of a show!
Photos: Ron Fassler
Legally Bound: Orfeh & Andy Karl
At Feinstein’s/54 Below
Through Monday January 27th