Reviewed by Joe Regan Jr.
54 Below has begun a new concert series dedicated to Broadway musicals that haven’t been revived since their original Broadway run. One of the first was Boy George’s “Taboo” which, after a successful London run, was brought to New York by Rosie O’Donnell who had Charles Busch revise the book for Broadway. The production ran 100 performances. It starred Euan Morton as Boy George and Boy George himself as 60’s legend Leigh Bowery and featured Raul Esparza. The concert version at 54 Below omitted the book but had the full score and music director John McDaniel, the original orchestra arranger, who presented this production with Amanda Sales. What was terrific about this night is that it featured many members of the original cast: Sarah Uriarte Berry, Jeffrey Carlson, Cary Shields, and best of all, Liz McCartney. The chorus and back up singers were also many members of the original cast.
The leads in this production were imported from a current London revival: Samuel Buttery as Leigh Bowery and Matthew Rowland as Boy George. Jeremy Kushnier plays Philip Sallon, the Esparza part. All the performers were in heavy punk rock make-up, painted eyelashes and eyebrows and over exaggerated lip coloring. In the case of Buttery, his make up was grossly exaggerated, his singing and acting performance extraordinary. Most of his performance had his pendulous breasts exposed, quite shocking to see but then again that’s “Taboo.”
Kushnier opened the show with the “Freak/Ode to Attention Seekers” setting the stage for the unusual. The audience went with him all the way as the rest of the performers joined him; some of the men in kinky body display (tattoos and bare chests and muscular arms). One of the best numbers was “Sexual Confusion” sung by McCartney, Kushnier, Rowland, and Shields (playing the straight man attracted to the kinky Boy George). Rowland and Kushnier also rocked the room with “Guttersnipe.” Buttery stunned the audience with “Every Taboo” but he was topped by the great McCartney recreating her number “Talk About Yourself.” Ten years has not diminished her voice, she’s as powerful as she was then and her emotional intensity elicited bravos from the audience. Berry showed her still vibrant chops on her lead song “Il Adore.” And the entire company took the stage for the contagious “Come On In From The Outside.”
“Taboo” has a Tony nominated score and this evening demonstrated it in its full power. You have two more chances to see “Taboo: Ten Years Later,” Saturday, February 8 at 8 PM and 11 PM. Call 646-476-3551 for reservations immediately. www.54Below.com 254 West 54 St. (Cellar) NYC