NY Cabaret Review by Joe Regan Jr.




Tony Yazbeck is the latest Broadway performer to appear in an autobiographical cabaret act at 54 Below. His show is entitled “The Floor Above Me.” He appears on stage in a dress suit, slouch hat, and begins an opening medley that includes “Fancy Free,” “Let Yourself Go,” “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” and “Can’t You See It.” The act, written by Howard Emanuel, showcases his great band under the musical direction of Jerome Korman and there is stunning work by Mark McGowan on trumpet, Tom Hubbard on bass, and Jay Lewis on drums and percussion. Many times during Yazbeck’s energetic act he dances and riffs with each of these musicians. One thing Yazbeck doesn’t do, even on the ballads, is relax, building up a sweat and he frequently wipes his face with a towel.

His second number is a Terpsichored “On the Sunny Side of the Street” in which he reveals how fascinated he was watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance on a small black and white TV. His mother determined he should go to dance school, learn everything from ballet to tap and as long as he practices five hours in the cellar and did not neglect his school work, she would pay for his lessons. Every morning he arose at 5 AM and danced in the basement and he would hear his mother stomping on the floor above him if she felt he wasn’t doing his practice, hence the title of the show. Growing up in Bethel, Pennsylvania, he participated in school musicals and her support continued even after his parents separated. There was an open callback for the Tyne Daly production of “Gypsy” and his parents drive him to that audition and he nails the part of one of the Newsboys in that production. Every day his mother drives him to the theater and then drives him back, with the windows open singing loudly so she won’t fall asleep.

After his run in “Gypsy,” where he learned about girls, he got his first kiss from the girl playing Baby June. Years later, in 2008, he wants to play Tulsa and even the same dance captain doesn’t remember him and doesn’t grant him an audition until he says she’d remembered his mother…that gets him an audition at the final callback where he is greeted by a hostile Arthur Laurents. He does “All I Need is the Girl” and there is no response but he sees Laurents tearing up.

Yazbeck’s other screen idol was Gene Kelly and he learned all his routines from his movies. He goes out into the audience and suddenly from the other side of the room Matthew Crowle appears, a sub for the scheduled Curtis Holbrook, and the two of them do the entire “Moses Supposes” number all thru the audience and on stage with relentless energy. Crowle, whom Yazbeck had met in Chicago, had come in that day and without a rehearsal with the band, the two of them did the complete routine without a mistake or a glitch.

Yazbeck finally sits on a stool and talks about never finding the perfect girl for him. He sings forcefully “Til Kingdom Come,” proving that he can hit high notes that very few dancers can.

Yazbeck begins a medley about searching for the perfect girl with “I Gotta Get You Into My Life,” and a beautiful blonde is spotted at the back of the room. He pursues her with “Dance Me To the End of Love;” she rejects him but he chases her to the stage and they go into an exuberant “I Won’t Dance” followed by “Cheek To Cheek.” The girl is Melinda Sullivan and she matches him step for vigorous step.

He finally meets the girl of his dreams in Chicago where he is playing the Gene Kelly part in “Singin’ in the Rain.” He looks up into her eyes on a stairway and it is instant love. They are getting married in October. Then he sings “Lucky To Be Me,” his big balled in “On the Town.”

Sullivan and Crowle join Yazbeck and they do a fierce “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You” and reprise “Slap That Bass” again. “The Floor Above Me” is one of the more physical shows you’ll ever see on the stage at 54 Below but Yazbeck, Crowle, and Jerome Korman and his musicians are a special pleasure you must see.

Tony Yazbeck “The Floor Above Me” repeats one more time on Tuesday, August 19 at 7:00 PM at 54 Below. Reservations are strongly recommended. Go online at (video interview)