By Brian Scott Lipton
Did a song from a film make a big impression on you? Did it not mean much to you originally, but later speak directly to your life? Or did you just think it might be fun to sing? All of these reasons help explain the extremely eclectic repertoire that made up “Broadway Goes to the Movies,” a delightful evening conceived and directed by Robert W. Schneider that was presented recently at Feinstein’s/54 Below. Yes, one could take slight issue with the pure accuracy of the title (a few of the younger performers have never graced a Broadway stage, and while all of the songs were heard in movies, some were penned for the stage or pop singers), but not with the talent, passion, and sincerity on display.
While every performer gave it his or her all, some stood out more brightly than others. The charming Seth Sikes gave Judy Garland a run for her money with an exuberant “Get Happy.” Allison Guinn slowed down “9 to 5” and made the Dolly Parton classic both poignant and hilarious. Nathan Gardner delivered that peace-and-love anthem of the 1960s, “Get Together,” with remarkable power, as did Christopher Lee Veljoin, who practically tore off the roof with Brian May’s mournful “Who Wants to Live Forever” (made famous by rock superstars Queen).
Unsurprisingly, many of the show’s more well-known names were just as memorable. Drama Desk nominee Claybourne Elder turned Whitney Houston’s dance-floor favorite “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” into a heart-wrenching cry for love. (And unfortunately for many of us, he’s already found it!) Real-life couple and Oscar winners Robert and Kristen Anderson-Lopez were beyond adorable, first on the slightly silly “Kiss at the End of the Rainbow” and then duetting on the irresistible “Love Is an Open Door” (from their megahit film Frozen.).
And it’s hard to imagine anything much funnier, even on Broadway, than playwright Chris Durang and his musical compatriots Dawne, who lent just the right satirical touch to Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s surprisingly sappy “The World is a Circle” (originally sung, unbelievably, by Liv Ullman in the superflop Lost Horizon). They followed that up immediately with, of all tunes, “Aldonza” from Man of La Mancha (because everyone loves a good Peter O’Toole-Sophia Loren musical!)
As we say at Passover: Dayenu (it would have been enough). But patrons got a real treat when the one-and-only Tovah Feldshuh closed the show with an extensive medley of George and Ira Gershwin songs (including some sung in Yiddish and Russian), interspersed with memories of her childhood and her father. Even though the segment seemed excerpted from a cabaret act, and was not quite in rhythm with the rest of the show, it was nevertheless both touching and thrilling, and a potent reminder that there is no power quite like star power.
Broadway Goes to the Movies played at 7pm on Monday, August 22 at Feinstein’s/54 Below.
Photos: Maryann Lopinto