Music Review By Brian Scott Lipton




What is “The Lillias White Effect?” Whenever you see this powerful Tony Award winner perform live, it’s usually the uncontrollable urge to applaud wildly, shout brava, and even stand up mid-show. All of which you’ll be doing if you’re lucky enough to catch her breathtaking new cabaret act, “The Lillias White Effect,” at 54 Below.

Smartly conceived and directed by Will Nunziata (a fine singer in his own right), the show allows the dynamic White to show off all of the many gifts we’ve known she has possessed for the past 30 years – and maybe even a couple that we don’t. It’s not just her ability to sing equally well in both a sweet soprano and in a raise-the-roof lower register that makes White such a great artist, it’s her ability to get to the core of a lyric. As the late Michael Bennett told her after he cast her as the standby Effie in the L.A. company of “Dreamgirls”: “I finally have an actress in the part.”

Nowhere does that statement resonate more than when White takes on some of the most iconic songs ever written for musical theater — and makes each and every one of them her own. You may never hear “Don’t Rain on My Parade” (take note, Lea Michele), “Some People,” “Before the Parade Passes By,” and, especially, “If He Walked Into My Life” the same way again. And since White may never get to actually play Fanny, Rose, Dolly, or Mame, getting to hear these stunning renditions of these classic songs is a true theatrical treat.

Naturally, so is her peerless take on “The Oldest Profession,” the Cy Coleman-Ira Gassman tune about an “aging” hooker that was written specifically for White for Broadway’s “The Life.” Hearing how White makes every clever phrase and perfectly conceived note count never gets old. She also shines on two other Coleman tunes, the delicious “Little Me” (in which she gets superb vocal and musical support from her pianist, the great Billy Stritch), and the infectious “Those Hands,” which was written by Coleman and Alan and Marilyn Bergman for White to sing in the musical “Like Jazz.”

White can also make you roar with laughter during the sassy “I’m Getting Along All Right”, shed a tear during the beautiful lament “How Can You Be Gone?” (penned by Ann Hampton Callaway and Lindy Robbins), or even make audible crowing sounds during “I Gotta Crow” (from “Peter Pan.”). What she can never do, however, is make you wish you were anywhere else than in the room with her!

“The Lillias White Effect” through May 3rd, 8:30 pm at 54 Below. 254 West 54th Street (Cellar) NYC

(646) 476-3551