By Marilyn Lester . . .

In 2019, The Abingdon Theatre Company began its delightful annual Broadway on the Bowery event, only to be interrupted by you-know-what. The curated cabaret series was finally able to resume in the elegant and intimate burlesque supper club, Duane Park, with the latest edition devoted to the celebrated music of Judy Garland. To honor the legend of stage, screen and television, the show brought together a stunning cast of Broadway divas to sing the songs that this ultimate diva made famous. Hosted by one of downtown’s most popular burlesque performers, The Maine Attraction, guests enjoyed fine dining to go along with the vocalizing as well as a touch of burlesque peppered in.

Leading the show, Teal Wicks (The Cher Show), who led a previous edition of Broadway on the Bowery, demonstrated why she can hold a room, with “San Francisco” (Gus Kahn, Bronislaw Kaper, Walter Jurmann). Her magnificent voice followed in the tradition of great divas, such as Garland, and Jeanette McDonald, who originally made the tune famous. Another knockout in the vocal department was the dynamic Alysha Umphress (On the Town) who gave a zingy “Zing Went the Strings of my Heart” (James F. Hanley), with superb musicality and interpretive chops. The presentational dynamic of the evening, directed by Abingdon Artistic Director, Chad Austin, was mostly the introduction of a tune as a ballad, building to a belting, uptempo conclusion. This approach was most unusual (and fun) with “Puttin’ on the Ritz” (Irving Berlin) which, in ballad form, puts a whole new spin on the lyric. It was cheerfully sung by Autumn Hurlbert (Something Rotten), who wholly relished the tempo change into the usual syncopated style the number is associated with.

Carolina Rial, employing all of the vocal tricks that she was known for on “The Voice,” was accompanied by the astounding, balletic athleticism of aerialist Sylvana Cecilia Tapia, who was suspended on a huge ring device. Between them they made “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (Harold Arlen, Yip Harburg) entirely memorable. At this point in the show, The Maine Attraction introduced the band—music director-keyboardist Robbie Cowan, electric bassist Sean Murphy, drummer Jared Mathis and reed player Chris Aguilar-Smucker—breaking up the performances with some comedy of her own. It takes a special talent to host a show, and her quick wit and frothy personality fit the bill. It also takes a very special talent to be a stripper. Burlesque star Pearls Daily may not have sung, but certainly offered her act with elegance and sweetly naughty grace as she got down to the business of pasties and G-string.

The name Judy Garland is hardly heard in the same breath as Noël Coward, but she did indeed sing his “If Love Were All,” sung by Keri René Fuller (Six). In contrast, a tune very much associated with Garland, “The Man That Got Away” (Harold Arlen, Ira Gershwin) was sung in an uber-power voice by another Six star, Samantha Pauly. Also a Garland favorite “You Made Me Love You (I Didn’t Want to Do It)” (James V. Monaco, Joseph McCarthy) was performed jazz style by Kennedy Caughell (…Great Comet of 1812) including a few bars of very credible scat. That tune was composed in 1913 and sounds as relevant today as it did back then and when Garland famously sang it in 1936; unsurprisingly, this sturdy number has been covered many times since by A-list performers. The Gershwins were represented in “How Long Has This Been Going On,” engagingly sung by Shereen Pimentel (West Side Story). A duo of prime Garland numbers, “Happy Days Are Here Again/Get Happy” (Milton Ager, Jack Yellen/Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler) were sung by the dynamic duo of Wicked, Dee Roscioli and Jackie Burns, with enthusiasm and gusto. Playout by the crackerjack band was a rousing “The Trolley Song” (Hugh Martin)—a real toe-tapper!

Since 1993, the award-winning Abingdon Theatre Company has developed and produced new plays by American playwrights, in a collaborative environment focusing on stories about the human experience that reflect social, political, historical and cultural diversity. The company’s next mainstage production is Robin and Me: My Little Spark Of Madness, running from April 15 – May 14 at Theatre Row. Visit for more information.