by Melissa Griegel . . .

Tony Nominee Derek Klena (Jagged Little Pill, Anastasia) took the Feinstein’s/54 Below stage on August 16th with a plan. His set list perfectly coordinated with his storytelling and you could see a lot of thought went into the construction of his solo performance.

Being only the third time he was able to perform live music in over a year and a half, the topic of the pandemic and the closing of theater was an obvious topic of discussion. “Ever since college, it’s been go-go-go,” he said. “You’re either in a show six days a week or you are auditioning to try to get your next job.” Happy to be back to work in Jagged Little Pill, which was nominated for eleven Tony Awards, he started the show with the positive song “This Will be Our Year” and followed it with Billy Joel’s “Vienna” which echoed his sentiments about slowing down. “COVID gave me a chance to slow down and re-connect with family. I think I saw my family more during the last year than I did during my last ten years in New York.”

With his wife in the audience, he told the packed-room how they met at UCLA and how he serenaded her at a bar by jumping up on a table and singing “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)” by Train, which was Elycia’s favorite song at the time. He sang it for us, sans table standing. “When the quarantine started, and the finish line got further and further away, my identity was on the line, I had anxiety with the social media, and day-to-day life was overwhelming. I was so grateful to have my amazing wife at my side,” he said and then looked in her direction. “I love you.”

Klena was joined on stage with Music Director Benjamin Rauhala on piano and David Cinquegrana on the guitar. Rauhala would occasionally add humorous commentary to Klena’s stories, and Klena thanked him for working so closely with him and arranging his music.

Some humorous moments came when he sang his “Uncle Derek Medley” consisting of songs he watched from shows with his nieces and nephews, and his “Belieber Medley” demonstrating a great impersonation of Justin Bieber. Another family member he spent a lot of time with was his younger brother Dylan when they got to go on a cross-country trip in January. He sang a beautiful rendition of “Jealous” because it was a song that they both enjoyed during their trip.

“I love the theater community and I love New York. It is the most resilient city in the world. It takes a village. We all support each other.” He sang “Beautiful City” from Godspell in honor of NYC. Klena told the audience that one of the things he is proudest of is that fact that he was able to originate two roles on Broadway and sing on the cast albums. He sang two songs from these shows: “My Petersburg” from Anastasia and “You Learn” from Jagged Little Pill. If you haven’t gotten to see Klena in Jagged Little Pill, get your tickets now! The show returns this October.

photos by Melissa Griegel Photography