This show proves that any predictions of the death of musical theater are quite premature.
By Joel Benjamin
Cutting Edge Composers at 54 Below (February 17th), a veritable cornucopia of fine songs from new shows, will disabuse any pessimists of the idea that musical theater is dying. Performed by Broadway veterans, these numbers reveal the rich talents of a new batch of songwriters and the thirteen musicals they wrote. Hosted by Susan Blackwell whose enthusiasm sometimes led her to some vulgarly suggestive commentary, the show sped by offering one gem after another.
An energetic Jen Johnson sang “Dear PTA” from Volleyball written by Eli Bolin, Sam Forman and Hunter Bell. She warned all those who listened that “there was an animal in our midst” and that the coach had to be overthrown, all in a mock outraged tone. Nic Rouleau did a number from Charles Sohne and Tim Rosser’s Run Away Home. In “I’m Clay” he tried to convince himself to take a chance on life and open himself up to the possibilities of a happy future. Handsome devil Conrad Ricamora and lovely Amber Grey’s rendition of “As Beautiful” from Aaron Jones and Sung Rno’s Galois whetted the appetite for this show which, believe it or not, is about a French mathematician.
Eric LaJuan was delightful singing “Crush” from Lyons and Pakchar’s 79, about a high school class. Mr. LaJuan’s vocal curlicue’s hid his humorously shy feelings. Based on Dreiser’s Sister Carrie, Landon Braverman and Derek Hassler’s Queen of the West was represented by Donna Vivino’s “Where Is the Man” about a wife dealing with her husband’s emotional absence. Daniel Zaitchik sang and accompanied himself at the piano in a song from a new musical called, I believe, Grenadine. The moody lyrics dealt with trying to escape the boom of fireworks and living a simpler life. He was the perfect salesman for his own work.
The highlight of the evening was Annie Golden singing a very funny song from the eponymously titled musical Annie Golden: Bounty Hunter. Clearly the creators of the show, Joe Iconis, Jason SweetTooth Williams and Lance Rubin, love Ms. Golden.
Overall, the thirteen shows spanned many styles, from Sondheim to Rock and Roll. It will be fascinating to follow up on them as they are staged either in workshops or professional productions.
254 West 54th St. (between Broadway and 8th Ave.)
New York, NY
Reservations for future events: 646-476-3551 or www.54below.com
Information about Cutting Edge Composers: www.cuttingedgecomposers.com