by Joel Benjamin
The first thing you notice about Lewis Flinn is that he is immensely likeable. Tall, handsome and enthusiastic, he hosted this program of his songs like a proud parent. Although a pleasant personality is surely not a prerequisite for a songwriter—famous exceptions are legion—this quality pervades even his most caustic songs. The Songs of Lewis Flinn at Feinstein’s/54 Below displayed not only the love and care he puts into his songs, but the incredible loyalty he has for those that interpret his work.
He accompanied himself on the piano for the opener, “The Show Goes On,” a pensive wish that turned theater metaphors into a contemplation of life’s wonders.
Then original cast members of his recent contemporary take on Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, Lysistrata Jones, showed what Broadway missed. The show, a hit off-Broadway, didn’t last long on Broadway, but the songs—and Flinn’s stories about them—were wonderful.
Patti Murin, the original Lysistrata, sang the upbeat “Change the World” with Kaite Boren, Kat Nejat and Biti Strauchn and partnered with Andrew Rannells on the sad love song “You Go Your Way,” a Grease-like ballad. (Rannells left the show to go into Book of Mormon!) Rannells soloed on “When She Smiles” and Ms. Murin ended the Lysistrata section with a searching, sad “Where Am I Now?”
Ms. Strauchn gave a powerful rendition of “Love Is in the Quiet” from Life Love, written with Barry Kaplan. The song, about the subtleties of true love, was a highlight of the evening.
Then it was on to a brand new musical, Hood, about Robin Hood, now trying out in Texas. Cast members, Alysha Umphress (the Lady who persuades Robin to become Robin Hood), Ashley Park (a lovely Maid Marian) and Nick Bailey (a dashing Robin Hood) sang three songs from the show, including “Be Robin Hood” (Ms. Umphress & Mr. Bailey), “Merry, Merry Be” (Ms. Umphress), “I Say Yes” (Ms. Park & Mr. Bailey) which gave a very positive impression of the show and Flinn’s ability to tell stories and establish character with his songs.
Opera star Susanna Phillips sang “Trinity of Harmony,” written with Charles Busch from his very funny Divine Sisters, a hilarious take on Nun-themed films. The song was a ditty about the miserable suffering that female Catholic martyrs went through, given a cheerfully sadistic interpretation by Ms. Phillips who also used her strong pipes to put across the quietly lovely “Do You Know My Country,” based on a Schubert song.
Young Nick Barasch ran with “Hill Country,” a happy, we’ve-come-home song.
Returning to Lysistrata Jones, the set ended with Cassandra Kubinski, Mr. Flinn and Brad Simmons (who provided brilliant accompaniment throughout with the help of a great band) singing “Give It Up,” which provided a soaring, rocking finale.
The Songs of Lewis Flinn was performed May 4 & 7 at Feinstein’s/54 Below (254 West 54th Street, between Eighth Avenue and Broadway). www.54Below.com