by Joel Benjamin
The New York Film Academy’s School of Musical Theatre’s faculty got their chance to shine in a fun concert at Feinstein’s/54 Below, performing for an audience of cheering student and the general public. Hosted by Rob Maitner whose naughty, bawdy commentary kept the laughs coming, the concert zipped along like a big party, which, of course, it was.
Photos of each performer as youngsters were shown on video screens, helping to get to know these hard-working theater teachers.
The hilarious “Claudius is Gonna Be King” (by Jeff Marx/Bobby Lopez of Avenue Q Fame), from a Muppet film, tells its story from Kermit The Frog’s point of view as a Hamlet-like character. Todd Buonopane, a lovely teddy bear of a guy, did a great Kermit imitation and communicated every witty lyric.
Bespectacled Jordan Dragutsky told a cute childhood story about being defended by Nancy Reagan in a beauty salon before singing Kander & Ebb’s “Dressing Them Up” from Kiss of the Spiderwoman, a jaunty sounding, but sad song about a prisoner’s former profession in the fashion world.
Christiana Cole sang her own “When I Was Learning to Sing” accompanying herself on the piano. (Daniel Lincoln was the good-natured musical director for most of the other performers.) The quiet, sweet song told of what thoughts went through her mind when she was training for a career she really loves.
Wysandria Woolsey (who challenges anyone to find anyone with her name!) sang “Nobody’s Side” (Rice/Anderson/Ulvaeus) from Chess in which she appeared. The song uses chess metaphors to tell of a rupture in a relationship and Ms. Woolsey gave it all she had.
“Something” is an answer to A Chorus Line’s “Nothing” (Hamlisch/Kleban) in which Morales tells of her acting teacher, Mr. Karp and how he ignored her needs. In this song, Mr. Karp tells what happened from his point of view. Rob Maitner gave it an acid-laced interpretation that was both touching and angry.
Seth Reich and Jessic Myhr, a cute couple, sang a sweet “I’ll Know” (Frank Loesser) followed by Bobby Cronin’s rendition of Craig Carnelia’s “What You Call a Dream.” Wearing a jaunty hat, Cronin, in his clear pop tenor, gave a poignant interpretation of the character’s one great moment of glory.
TJ Mannix and Daniel Lincoln showed off their improvisational talents with a ditty invented on the spot. NYFA students have to do this in one of their classes, so the teachers took their professional reputations in their own hands and produced a nimbly rhymed song about nothing in particular.
Christine DeFrence sang her own number, “Waiting for My Real Life to Begin” with her co-composer, William Demianow at the piano. “Waiting,” was a bittersweet song about needing hope for the future after a dark past.
Lauren Elder belted “Don’t Rain on My Parade” (Styne/Merrill) with zest and Kristy Cates squeezed out all the yearning from “Back to Before” from Ragtime (Flaherty /Ahrens).
The finale was “Build Your Own City” by Zoe Sarnak from a short musical she had to write as part of her NYFA training. An upbeat anthem sung by the entire cast, it was a great ending to a very high spirited show.
NYFA Faculty Show! (May 21, 2017)
254 West 57th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue
New York, NY
For reservations, call 646-476-3551 or visit www.54Below.com
For more information, visit www.nyfa.edu