By Steve Nardoni
At Feinstein/s 54 Below we were delighted to share a table with two charming young women, Sophie Huisken and Sidney Peebler, undergraduates at NYU and the New York Conservatory respectively, both aspiring performers majoring in musical theater. Their enthusiasm and delight watching Laura Osnes and Tony Yazbeck totally enhanced our appreciation of the unsurpassable talent up on that stage. Looking forward to seeing both these ladies bathed in the footlights!
One of the great aspects of the consistent calendar of shows at 54 Below is the absolute belief that classics are meant to be revived and revived, so we can remember and appreciate what past songwriters have contributed to our culture. With shows like this that highlight the talent of the likes of George Gershwin, hope springs eternal that this music will not be lost. And I am probably not the only one in the audience who was jettisoned back to when first hearing these songs and feeling the joy once more of hearing them again, with the added bonus of stellar song and dance.
The careers of Laura and Tony are abundant with brilliant performances on the Broadway stage and beyond. I first saw Tony as Tulsa in the 2008 revival of Gypsy, and was mesmerized by his work, particularly his rendition of “All I Need is the Girl” (Sondheim and Bernstein). I was thrilled to see him reprise that performance and in his solo dance he taps his way into heaven. Incredible! I had not had the pleasure of seeing Laura at work but based on her exquisite talent she shared with us tonight, her resume (wins and nominations galore) justifiably outlines a breathtaking career.
Individually these two can slam-dunk singing and dancing till the cows come home. Together, they are one man/one woman Broadway juggernaut: their natural comfort with each other and their singing and dancing synergy is evocative of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, (or a long-married couple) but feistier.
But first, before getting feisty, in the intro medley these two smashed up the room with snippets of Gershwin classics : “Slap That Bass,” “Beginner’s Luck,” Crazy for You”,,“S’Wonderful,” “Things Are Looking Up” and “Somebody Loves Me,” a sweet synchronization of perfectly matched voices peppered with athletic dancing.
And a special treat was their acoustical (sans mics) rendition of “Nice Work If You Can Gets It,” enhanced with staccato tapping, all while the two sing melodiously. And speaking of special treats, they are fantastically accompanied by Fred Lassen at the piano who was, yes, instrumental in completing the perfection of music coming from the stage. During a brief break for the artists, Fred was joined by Nick Connor for delicate quatre mains (two players playing the same piano simultaneously), a perfectly delightful change of music.
And getting to the feisty, Laura and Tony have fun with each other, first pattering about their egos and segueing into a hilarious rendition of “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” followed by spot-on tap-dancing duets, ending up with a rousing version of “I’ve Got Rhythm.” Intertwined with their duets was a litany of songs featuring each of them singing solo. Laura picked up “The Man I Love,” “But Not For Me,” “A Foggy Day” and “Wonderful Guy” from South Pacific (Rodgers and Hammerstein). She hijacked those famous songs and replicated the core of each song while using her amazing voice to weave them into her own melodious cloth. Tony meticulously did the same. In addition to the aforementioned “All I Need is the Girl,” he croons a heartfelt “Someone to Watch Over Me” and a loving “They Can’t Take That Away from Me.” Throughout this show we were all bowled over by the tremendous talent displayed by these two professionals, who seamlessly took the audience into the world of the iconic Gershwin and musical theater in general. I am particularly amazed that, individually and together, this duo are capable of sharing such captivating song and dance, a talent needed so much these days when we all need more exposure to beauty. Thank you Laura and Tony!
May 21, 2019 at Feinstein’s 54 Below, 254 West 54th Street, NYC – Additional shows on June 17, June 23, and June 24.