by Matt Smith
“It’s good to see me, isn’t it?” the bubbly Carrie St. Louis asks, with a laugh, at the top of her act, which premiered last Sunday at Feinstein’s/54 Below. (For those living under a rock, it was her opening line as Glinda in Wicked). There’s no question this girl is a fiery ball of energy; anyone who’s “seen her in a smoky room” rockin’ fishnet stockings and a clothier bra while screlting ’80’s tunes, or prancing around the stage at the Gershwin in that signature frilly pink dress, can tell you that. So, the moment she bursts through the doors of the intimate supper club — making her grand entrance by gleefully weaving her way through the audience, lip trills and all — you know you’re in for a good time… and you, therefore, have no problem answering her question with a resounding “yes!”
Again, it’s her first time at the venue, so naturally, she’s notably green and giggly throughout the evening, but it’s no matter: her voice is unmatched, she delivers in spades, and her incredibly infectious positive energy is a welcome refreshment, signaling she’s proud to be there, enjoying herself and simply livin’ it up.
Props to the brilliant Benjamin Rauhala, who serves as pianist and music director for the evening, as well as the incredible trio of musicians that accompany her, including Jared Schonig (Drums), David Cinquegrana (Guitar) and Brian Holtz (Bass).
The show itself is a fantastic evening all around. Songs like the aforementioned opener (“Raise the Roof” from The Wild Party), “Lose Yourself” by Eminem (her self-proclaimed “hype song”) and Christina Aguilera’s “Ain’t No Other Man” (an unapologetic ode to her dog) show off her wild side; others, like The Light in the Piazza’s “The Beauty Is” and “Inside a Dream” (the latter a duet with the incomparable Carrie Manolakos) allow her to dip into slower tempo and properly show off her impressive vocal range. (Of course, if you’re familiar with St. Louis and her work, this may come as no surprise).
But what one may not be expecting is the emotional journey St. Louis will take you on… and how much it will unexpectedly tug at your heartstrings. It’s constructed as a full-scale autobiographical journey through her life. Yes, the set list is eclectic and entertaining as is, but you come to realize as the evening goes on that each number was carefully selected to correspond to the story that precedes it within the show. For example, the aforementioned “Beauty Is” is used to describe her experience studying abroad in Italy (where she “really discovered [her] voice, and maybe the mayor’s younger brother as well”) and “On My Way” (from the Tesori/Crawley musical Violet) followed her description of her acceptance into Phillips Academy Andover prep school.
It’s a beyond brilliant way to craft a show… and because it’s so deeply rooted in her own personal experience, I feel like we come out the other side knowing her better on a personal level… and appreciate her for allowing us that peek into her life and vulnerability. One such instance comes when she gets surprisingly candid about the vocal problems she experienced mid-college career, to the point of tears (before launching into Sara Bareilles’ “City,” with the fitting lyric, “I don’t feel like singing tonight”); another “choked-up” moment happens when speaking of boyfriend Kyle Lowder, and his commitment to making their long-distance tour-ridden relationship work (before launching into the appropriate “Faithfully” by Journey). While the show is obviously peppered with humorous moments as well (see: first role in community theatre or her Rock of Ages dance call), these are the ones that stood out the most — the ones that made us see her as Carrie… and not just as Sherrie or Glinda, as we may have known her before. (On that note, I have to mention — just ‘cause I’m a sucker for Sondheim — the beautiful rendition of “No One Is Alone,” which she performed alongside her childhood bestie Matthew McFarland. I defy anyone to tell me they didn’t immediately get goosebumps open hearing that first note!!)
In short, the concert was highly enjoyable… and her expression of appreciation for being there just made me love it all the more. She’s fully aware — as she quotes, stealing another gem from her Wicked character, Glinda — that “happy is what happens when all your dreams come true,” and this concert was obviously a dream come true for her. We see that, she sees that… and that’s why the result is not just “something good” (as the title tells us)… but, honestly, something pretty gosh-darn great. With such a fiery ball of energy at the helm, what more would you expect?
Carrie St. Louis’ “Something Good,” played Feinstein’s/54 Below (254 W. 54th Street) January 14th, and will return to the venue on March 5th. For tickets and more information, please visit www.54below.com.