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NY Cabaret Review Sandi Durell


It’s hard to believe, but it’s one year ago that Tony Award winning actress, singer, TV and movie diva Joanna Gleason appeared at 54 Below. Well, I shouldn’t call her a diva because that might connote someone who is a holier than thou personality with her nose in the air, which this lady surely is not. In fact, she’s just the opposite – down to earth, full of heart, love and joy, which she shares liberally with her audience.

Screen Shot 2014-10-10 at 1.32.12 PMOpening night October 7th at 54 Below began with the sounds of Well Strung, a contemporary string quartet – Ed Bagnell on violin, Chris Marchant on second violin, Trevor Wadleigh on viola, Daniel Shevlin on cello – who play everything from pop to classical and sing beautiful harmonies, and then adding musical director/arranger on piano Jeff Klitz and Lee Weissman on guitar.

As a youngster, Joanna Gleason, a sun-kissed California girl, seemed to be seeking a drama department to assuage her fantasy as Darcy Dorsey, the daughter of Tommy. And so the story goes through songs “Where or When,” “I Can Dream, Can’t I” – intertwining tidbits of her life, loves, family and independence – along the way having children, going through divorce and confusion expressed in a unique and humorous rendition of “Is That All There Is?” In fact, all the song choices carried forth her personal journey, cleverly designed and created featuring wonderful tunes like Sondheim’s “Stay With Me” and James Taylor’s “You Can Close Your Eyes.”

She saw a psychic, two psychics in fact, one 4 ft. 8” who told her there will be musk and trees, and there was – yes, her Tony winning performance as the Baker’s wife in Sondheim’s “Into The Woods,” whereupon she called up the Baker himself, Chip Zien to relive their duet “Moments in the Woods.”

Screen Shot 2014-10-10 at 1.30.21 PMThe show is a musical storybook of life unfolding between L.A. and N.Y. that culminated in a permanent move east when, in 2004, she appeared in “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” on Broadway. And it’s emotionally augmented by her story of family and children, four between herself and hubby Chris Sarandon who, with her son Aaron, joined her on stage in “I Believe in Love.”

By the time the evening ended you knew Joanna Gleason and felt as if she was a good friend sharing her personal life with you – with glee and a wink in a gorgeous black cutout lace dress with sparkles.

What more do I need?

Ms. Gleason and Well Strung appear at 54 Below on October 14 and 21 and should not be missed! (646) 476-3551 – 254 West 54 St. – Cellar

Photos/Video: Sandi Durell

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