Review by Kelli McGurk
Known for his colorful and energetic pop-inspired musical theatre tunes, Drew Gasparini and his company of Broadway stars created an evening of song, story, and sentiment on September 11, 2017 at Feinstein’s/54 Below. At the top of the set, Gasaprini warns us of what’s to come. “This is personal,” he declares, “We’re going to feel some things.” Unlike Gasparini’s usual Feinstein’s/54 Below set, each piece in the sixteen-song cycle is autobiographical and based on a true event or story that has taken place in Gasparini’s life.
The order of songs could not be better-structured, beginning on a comedic note and taking us through each emotion of the human condition. What made this concert an even more affirmed success, however, was the talented cast that inhabited the music and lyrics of Gasparini and delivered them with genuine honesty and authenticity. The audience cackled through songs like “Danny & Andrew,” humorously illustrated by Jeremy Morse and “The Thing I Like Most About New York,” delivered by Andrew Kober with the sincerest streak of apathy, describing the woes of living and working in NYC. Contrastingly, there were also moments where the audience audibly wept through songs like “Mom Could Play Guitar,” performed sweetly and modestly by Alex Brightman, and “Good at Building Things,” the emotional highlight of the evening that induced chills and tears in everyone as Brandon Ellis exercised his expert voice and story-telling. “I’ll Stick Around,” performed by Keith White, featured a section of spoken word, and highlighted a difficult time in Gasparini’s life. “When I Go,” energetically delivered by Colton Ryan, was an anthem of what it means to be an artist, and felt perfectly timed with the devastating passing of Michael Friedman last week. Clifton Duncan’s sweet baritone vibrated throughout the venue on “So Damn Mean,” and Elizabeth Ann Berg’s voice sailed effortlessly in “On and On and On.”
As if things weren’t personal enough, the final two songs, “My Darlin’” and “Graceland” even featured Kasie and Choloe Gasparini, Drew’s sisters. These two songs were unique stylistically, and featured gorgeous three-part harmonies. The genre of these resembled a soft, folk-like sound, which was a delightful contrast to Gasparini’s usual striking and upbeat tone. The concert was backed by a phenomenal band that reflected the electric energy of Gasparini, who remained on piano for the majority of the evening.
Let’s Drink to That: The Music & Lyrics of Drew Gasparini allowed the audience to view so many aspects of Gasparini’s life with a magnifying glass. We vicariously felt the moments of love, the moments of loss, the struggles, victories, and defeats that he experienced firsthand. These songs and this evening was a perfect demonstration of the miracle of musical theatre – that through the music and lyrics of another, describing circumstances and experiences that are entirely their own, we are able to find pieces of ourselves.