Reviewed by Joe Regan Jr.
Drew Gasparini won the John Lennon Songwriting Award and his music has been heard on the TV series “Smash” as well as at the Kennedy Center. His musical “Make Me Bad,” with a book by Alex Brightman, was awarded by PACE New Musicals and his other musical “Crazy, Just Like Me” received a NYC workshop in November and was awarded Best in Festival at the NYMF. His program of rock and roll songs was a sellout at 54 Below in December. On January 29 he returned with a show entitled “From Here To There Vol. 2;” the program was a series of songs from those musicals and his new musicals, “The Up and Down“ and “The Wreck.”
If you’re worried about the trend of Broadway “juke box” musicals featuring songs from the rock and roll pop world and you’re wondering where the songs of Stephen Sondheim are going, look no further. Drew Gasparini is one of the best new composers of the 21st Century. His chord structure is reminiscent of Sondheim, and his rock sensibility comes from Paul Simon’s later work, especially “Graceland,” his other major influence is Peter Gabriel. Drew’s lyrics, although in meter, don’t often rhyme (or have trick rhymes) but there are lots of beautiful internal rhymes and alterations in the words.
Seated at the piano with his musician’s “Don Jon” slouched on his head as if he were Bob Fosse, a parade of wonderful Broadway theatre singers gave great performances of the songs from his shows – – Justin Guarini, Jaxon Gotay, Alex Brightman, Andrew Kober, F. Michael Haynes, Julia Mattison, Ben Crawford, and his sister Kasie Gasparini. And his band, Charlie Rosen on bass, Adrien Godat on guitar, and Marques Walls on drums, gave terrific loud support but you could hear all the lyrics.
There was a great Mutt and Jeff like duet entitled “Fucky Fried Piece of Meat” and early in the show , Alex Brightman, a pixie like young singer sang a song entitled “A Little Bit” from “Crazy, Like Me” about a young man speaking to his mother on the telephone after he has re-located to New York City. An animated comic number about how his mother influenced his peculiar tastes and now how he is fitting in with the other different ones he has found in New York City. At the end of each chorus there is a word that should rhyme with the obvious one but never does until the pay-off.
A great ballad was “Slow Down” tenderly sung by Emily Kay Shrader. There was a funny and hip “Text Book Song” about a girl texting the man she wants and finding out that he is also texting her girlfriend. From “Make Me Bad,” – a duet/counter melody entitled “White Noise” and “Beyond the Next Moon” sung by beautiful Julia Mattison and hunky Ben Crawford (he with a great bass baritone). From “The Wreck” there was “Little Miss Ordinary” and “Tell Me I’m Wrong” sung by Drew and E. Michael Haynes, both songs winners. From “Smash” Cindy Latin sang a great torch, “If I Had You.” From “The Wreck” Monet Julia Sabel sang a sumptuous “Overboard.”
In the middle of the show Drew sang two very explicit sexual songs one about bananas and one about losing his virginity on the Long Island Rail Road! They were explicitly dirty songs and they were outrageously funny. Then Drew said it was time for a jam session. Patrons were given slips to suggest titles and he would improvise songs. I don’t remember what his draw was but his sister Kasie drew “Homoerotic Disney.” Needless to say the lyrics they sang were inspired with Drew singing a a strange ballad and she a wonderful song in countermelody about all kinds of perversions at Disneyworld!
The audience was ecstatic all evening. Drew is a vocal coach and lots of his students were there, and the ones at the table praised his coaching for auditions. Do yourself a favor and look up his songs on Youtube (you’ll see a lot of the songs I’ve mentioned) and order his CD “I Could Use A Drink” produced by TheBengeGroup and distributed by Broadway Records on CDBaby. Look for his return at 54 Below and watch for his musicals!