by Edward Medina
This past Halloween the trick or treating denizens of New York City, who managed to grab a hard to get ticket to the Feinstein’s 54 Below antics of Bonnie Milligan and Natalie Walker starring in their self-created production of The Graveyard Smash, were entertained by a hilarious and highly entertaining near-death experience. Milligan of Broadway’s Head Over Heels and Walker of off-Broadway’s Alice By Heart, also two glamorous and truly gifted cabaret belters, each have their own inimitable style and yet together they blend well both in vocal chops and comic timing.
The ambitious Graveyard Smash was a two-night four performance affair with different story lines per night. On Halloween the enthusiastic crowd was presented with a wonderfully funny haunted house tale of cheeky theatre clichés, spooky kooky character cameos, and a slate of musical numbers that thrilled the patrons and blew the roof off the legendary joint. Under the musical direction of Dan Garmon on piano, with the rest of the night’s house band consisting of Adi Meyerson on bass, David Kawamura on guitar, and Josh Roberts on drums, everything was set and met for success.
The story line picks up with Milligan and Walker beginning rehearsals for their cabaret at the Ripley Grier Studios when the ladies suddenly discover that they are trapped there. The only way to escape and return to 54 Below is to traverse all fifteen now haunted floors and face the things they fear most. Each floor has a theme and a tune. There are floors for hungry vampires, creepy crawlies, mad clowns, wacky witches, and telekinetic woo hoo energy. At first our femme fatales travel and duet together, then they get separated for solos, only to be reunited again for the great escape.
Bonnie Milligan was at her full throated finest. The woman’s voice can easily fill a Broadway house and here in the smaller 54 Below venue she opens up and you hang on as her songs blast right through you. Milligan is a phenomenon and, as always, she was phenomenal. Natalie Walker has a powerful voice as well and she wields it with skill but in Graveyard Smash it’s her comic timing that shines through. Her rendition of “Send in The Clowns” while applying Joaquin Phoenix Joker like makeup pretty much stopped the show.
Milligan and Walker are a lovely match made in cabaret heaven and while we may occasionally lose them to other larger stages their fans will always be anxiously waiting at the clubs hoping for more holiday treats from this outstanding in every way dynamic duo.
Photos: Nate Hinkle