by: Brian Scott Lipton
If you’re looking for some of Broadway’s best and brightest stars, you may want to head just slightly west of the Great White Way in the coming weeks and run on down to 54 Below.
On January 30 and 31 and February 1, the legendary Michele Lee makes her club debut. While Lee is well aware that many people still think of her from her best-known TV role, as Karen Fairgate Mackenzie on the long-running CBS drama “Knots Landing,” she stresses that singing remains her first love. Her dynamic show will include highlights from her Broadway career, which includes songs and stories from such landmark shows as “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and “Seesaw.” Lee will also bring her signature stylings to more contemporary material, including a shattering rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You.”
On February 3, Tony Award nominee Annaleigh Ashford (“Kinky Boots”) will show off her incredible vocal chops and superb comic timing. Ashford, who will soon depart the Big Apple in order to film the second season of Showtime’s “Masters of Sex,” is planning a show that pays homage to Studio 54, with selections ranging from Broadway to disco to pop. At a recent press preview, she dazzled us with a gorgeous version of Elton John’s “Mona Lisa & Mad Hatters” and had us in stitches with her “karaoke” version of Alanis Morissette’s “Hand in My Pocket” that relies on some clever audience participation.
Finally, on February 9, the sizzling Brenda Braxton will reunite with some of the original cast members of the hit Broadway revue “Smokey Joe’s Café” to re-create numbers from that exciting show. Because the cast now lives all across the world, Braxton says they rarely get together, making this event a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “I can’t wait to see if DeLee Lively can still shimmy,” she says with a laugh. And while this is the first time Braxton is gracing the 54 Below stage, it probably won’t be her last. “They’ve asked me to do solo shows, but I’ve always been too nervous,” she admits. “But now that I’ve been up here today, I’d come back and do my own show in a New York minute.”
*see video of preview performances
Photos/video: Maryann Lopinto