By Ron Fassler . . .

Third time’s the charm for the showmanship of Seth Sikes, who performed a one-night only concert Thursday evening at 54 Below. A salute to Barbra Streisand, it outmatched previous outings of his I have attended; one where he paid tribute to Judy Garland, and “Runnin’ Wild,” in which he saluted songs of the 20’s (the 1920s, that is). When in his capable presence, one thing is for certain: his renditions display a tenor voice of skilled intonation, articulation, and pitch. He belts with the best of them and even while channeling songs strongly identified with a woman of Streisand’s caliber, he is able to tread a fine line in keeping things from distorting into caricature (not easy when it’s Barbra).

TV-scribe Eric Gilliland, who contributed to the show with a few of Sikes’s choice jokes and also directed, was on hand to offer whistling accompaniment to “The Way We Were” (its casualness adding to the convivial atmosphere). Under the sensitive and skilled musical direction of Phil Reno, the eight-piece band was so large it spilled off 54 Below’s tiny stage. It included Sean Murphy, Perry Cavari, Jeremy Clayton, Brandon Lee, Charlie Gordon, Rachel Handman and Garo Yellin, all of whom had shining moments.

Nicolas King – Seth Sikes

In addition to bringing song stylists Nicolas King and Nellie McKay onstage to add to the festivities, Sikes dominated the seventy minutes by way of charming patter and a dedication to singing in the tradition of the Great American Songbook. Considering that he had a trove of Streisand material from which to select (she has recorded thirty-six albums in her sixty-year career), he chose wisely and well. As a singer well-known for exceptional taste, especially with respect to those who preceded her, Streisand’s covers go as far back as 1927’s “Lover Come Back to Me,” with music by the operetta-master Sigmund Romberg, and lyrics by the Broadway giant, Oscar Hammerstein II, to such pop hits as “Enough is Enough,” famously introduced as a duet with Donna Summer.” It’s a wide range and Sikes did well by them.

Nellie McKay – Seth Sikes

Raiding the scores of Funny Girl (1964) and Funny Lady (1975), presented multiple offerings from Marilyn and Alan Bergman, longtime friends and lyricists, essential to Streisand’s catalog. Broadway, film scores, pop hits, oldies and rock were all on the bill and Sikes handled them with ease. Why shouldn’t a man get to sing some of the great women’s torch songs? All’s equal on a bare stage when you have a a microphone and a musician (or eight) backing you up.

It’s important to point out that when Seth Sikes commits to a note, you know you’re going to reach the finish line safely without a stumble. There’s no worry in the audience, which is no small feat. You have to admire the panache and style.

If I may offer a suggestion for a future tribute show, Sikes would do well to explore the singing (and songwriting) songbook of Peter Allen, an entertainer to which he bears a resemblance. Having seen Allen perform live back in the 80s, there’s a symmetry there worth exploring. But whether he takes the advice or not, whatever Seth Sikes chooses to do next, will be something to savor.

“Seth Sikes Sings Barbra Streisand” was presented September 8, 2022, at 54 Below, 254 W 54th Street, NYC. For more information on upcoming events,

Photos: Ron Fassler