by: Paulanne Simmons
Jason Robert Brown began his week of performances at 54 Below on Monday, Nov 18, singing songs both old and new. He was backed by The Caucasian Rhythm Kings, which includes Gary Sieger on guitar, Randy Landau on bass and Jamie Eblen on drums. Morgan Karr, Whitney Bashor, and Dan’yelle Williamson provided vocal backup.
Brown is a fine pianist and has a rich and expressive voice. This, coupled with the excellent harmonies and solos of Karr, Whitney and Williamson, made for a very satisfying evening.
Two outstanding numbers were “Break Me Blues,” in which Brown showed off his keyboard skills, and “Advice to the Playaz,” written for the 50th anniversary celebration at the Guthrie Theatre, which mixes Shakespeare with rap and was a tour de force for Karr.
Brown, who won a Tony for Parade, took an ironic look at some of his less successful efforts, calling Urban Cowboy a “long lamented Broadway hit” before Karr sang “It Don’t Get Better Than This.” Williamson also sang “The Lamest Place in the world” from 13, another show that was not exactly a hit.
However, Brown was optimistic about The Bridges of Madison County, which previews at the Schoenfeld this January. and Honeymoon in Vegas, a show currently in search of a theater.
Brown sang “It All Fades Away” and Bashor sang “Another Life” from The Bridges of Madison County. “I Love Betsy,” a Cole Porter-style list song from Honeymoon in Vegas, which has the distinction of rhyming “Just like Jay-Z and Beyoncé.” with “I will make her my fiancée,” was sung by the ensemble.
Brown’s encore, “Twenty-Six Names” (“All Things in Time”), ended the show on a note so solemn he probably didn’t need to ask the audience to hold its applause. It was a bold ending to a terrific show by a talented performer.
Jason Robert Brown has one more show on Nov. 23 at 54 Below