By Sandi Durell
Impresario, creator, host, writer, director and all-around favorite, Scott Siegel, once again brought a bevy of talented beauties (and equally handsome, talented men) to the stage of Town Hall for the most recent Broadway by the Year – the Musicals of the 1970s. This is the 16th Year!
The era featured a renaissance of new composers – like Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Schwartz, Kander & Ebb, for instance! And it racked up major numbers for black shows – Bubbling Brown Sugar, The Wiz, Ain’t Misbehavin’. As in every era, there are the BIG winners on Broadway; shows that ran over 1000 performances (i.e. – Annie, Pippin, The Wiz, Ain’t Misbehavin’, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Evita, Grease, They’re Playing Our Song, Shenandoah), with memorable songs that, in the vernacular, audiences leave a theater humming. And then, of course, the shows that may have racked up performances but didn’t leave many, if any, memorable tunes. You gotta take the good with the not so good.
Siegel, always armed with the facts and figures, is a walking history book as he doles out just enough to whet the appetite as introductions to the talented performers that filled the two-act evening with song and dance.
Kerry Butler, who still looks like a teenager, opened the evening with “Here Comes the Sun” (Beatlemania), returning to sing “Sleepy Man” (The Robber Bridegroom, recently revived starring Steven Pasquale), but knocked it out of the ballpark with a soaring arrangement of “Home” (The Wiz).
Baby-doll looking Morgan Weed (of recent American Psycho vintage) has an au natural, organic touch to her delivery that shone on “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” (Grease), a reflective “I Remember” (Side by Side by Sondheim) and the beautiful “Time Heals Everything” (Mack & Mabel).
The soaring Farah Alvin was a standout, singing her guts out, as she took on the male role in Jesus Christ Superstar with “Gethsemane” (a new 21st Century approach now employed at the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park with an all female “Taming of the Shrew”) and later resounded, unplugged, with “Tomorrow” (Annie) as a tribute to the victims and families of the Orlando terrorist massacre.
Maxine Linehan, was quietly passionate with “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” (Jesus Christ, Superstar) and closed Act I with “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” (in appropriate Evita dress).
The lovely, winsome Rachel Bay Jones (recent Drama Desk nominee Dear Evan Hansen, heading to Broadway) is far from your average ordinary “Kind of Woman” (Pippin), later delivering Sondheim’s most recorded song “Send in the Clowns,” with quiet intensity, backed by Sean Harkness on guitar.
Charming and talented song and dance man (currently tearing up the Westside Theater stage in “Cagney”), Robert Creighton, had Jeremy Benton at this side for a rousing, romping “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” (Annie), Creighton returning later with the ironic “Mr. Cellophane” (Chicago – the longest running American musical of all time – revival or new show).
If it’s another triple threat you seek, try Carlton Terrence Taylor. And he’s also got that attitude that made “Your Feet’s Too Big” (Ain’t Misbehavin’) and “Stormy Monday Blues” (Bubbling Brown Sugar) a toe tapper even while sitting in my seat.
And speaking of male favorites, it was grand to see Noah Racey on stage singing and tapping his way through “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby” (Ain’t Misbehavin’). He’s one cool cat!
The evening came to a close as Maxine Linehan led the cast in “What I Did For Love” (A Chorus Line).
But praise must be lavished on the musicians behind this all – Ross Patterson, Music Director on piano; with Tom Hubbard on bass and Jared Schonig on drums.
Next Up: The 14th Annual Broadway Unplugged on Monday July 25th with some extraordinary Big Voices! (Tonya Pinkins, Chuck Cooper, William Michals, Ryan Silverman, Kyle Scatliffe, Janette Bayardelle) with more artists TBA!
800 982-2787 (available July 5 at Box Office)
Photos: Maryann Lopinto