By Jordan Cohen
Shoshana Feinstein and Benjamin Rauhala were back with the third iteration of their hit show, Not At This Performance, at Feinstein’s/54 Below on Tuesday night after producing two successful versions back in 2013 and 2014. The concept hasn’t changed: a group of eclectic performers, each understudies for the stars of their respective Broadway shows, finally get the chance to sing their big songs for an audience for the first time.
These unsung heroes of the Great White Way work tirelessly, some covering more than one role, waiting for their moment to shine – a moment, which for these performers, never came. In some cases, as in Tuck Everlasting, American Psycho, and Shuffle Along, the show closed too quickly, and for others, as in the slightly longer running She Loves Me, the stars never called out. According to understudy Andrew Kober, and unfortunately for him, Zachary Levi was “healthy as a horse”
Maddy Trumble, understudy for Newsies’ Kara Lindsay, kicked off the evening with the rousing “Watch What Happens,” a call-to-arms that resonated perfectly in our current climate, featuring lines like, “Nothing happens if you just give in.” Ms. Trumble’s bright voice and earnest delivery earned rapturous applause. Ms. Trumble was followed by the lovely-voiced duo of Synthia Link and Abby Church, who together performed a mash-up of Rosemary’s songs from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying – they told the story of how they were each hired to cover the role a few weeks apart – complementing each other beautifully on songs like “Paris Original” and “Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm.”
Remy Zaken, who was slated to perform a song from Dear Even Hansen, for which she understudied at Second Stage, switched last second to Spring Awakening after receiving a cease and desist (yikes!). No worries – Ms. Zaken delivered a nicely sung rendition of “Mama Who Bore Me,” (sung in the original by Lea Michele and reprised by the girl’s ensemble. She didn’t understudy Michele, but I’ll give them a pass considering the tough circumstances!).
The aforementioned Mr. Kober stole the first half of the show with a powerhouse performance of Georg’s big number, “She Loves Me.” Aside from possessing a singing voice that seriously rivals Levi’s, he showed a level of charm, ease, and intelligence that had me wishing I’d seen him do the role last season!
Other stand-out performances included Zurin Villanueva’s exuberant version of “I’m Simply Full of Jazz,” originally sung by Adrienne Warren in Shuffle Along, Anna Eilinsfeld, Dave Thomas Brown (who blew the roof off the Lucile Lortel Theatre last season in The Legend of Georgia McBride), and Krystina Alabado’s numbers from American Pyscho, and the nineteen year old star-in-the-making Ben Cook’s interpretation of “Top of the World” from Tuck Everlasting. Ms. Eilinsfeld nailed Evelyn’s (originally played by Heléne York) vapid, yet ruthlessly conniving demeanor in “At the End of An Island,” playing off Mr. Brown with delicious aplomb, while Ms. Alabado delivered a yearning, gorgeously sung performance of Jennifer Damiano’s second act ballad, “A Girl Before.” Mr. Brown’s coolness suited the role of Patrick Bateman nicely during “Common Man.”
But Ben Cook, understudy for Jesse Tuck, originally played by Andrew Keenan-Bolger, stole the second half of the show, bringing down the house with his golden tenor and timeless energy – qualities most appropriate for the youngest member of the immortal Tuck family. Here’s to hoping we’ll be seeing much more of this Helen Hayes nominee in the near future.
Rauhala served as music director and accompanied the performers on the piano, while Feinstein directed.
Not At This Performance 3
Tuesday, January 10th, 2017
254 W. 54th St., Cellar, New York, NY 10019
For tickets: http://54below.com
Or call: (646) 476-3551