By: Joel Benjamin
Will Swenson is heartthrob handsome, a star of Broadway shows and possessed of a growly, expressive voice. He was a mesmerizing presence even when he seemed to lose his way in self-deprecating musings about his appearance and stories about his childhood at his debut solo show at Feinstein’s/54 Below on Sept. 18th.
He spent a great deal of time—perhaps, too much time—speaking about his Mormon upbringing, singing numbers like “Abide with Me, ‘Tis Eventide” (Harrison Millard/Martin Lowrie Hofford), “Diddly Wack Mack Mormon Daddy” (Sons of Provo) and “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” (Neil Diamond), all illuminating different facets—meditative and funny—of his religious experience.
He also sexily tossed off some bluesy “secular” songs: “Big Bad Bill” (Milton Ager/Jack Yellen), a New Orleans style song about a macho guy tamed by love; “Big Bottom” (from This is Spinal Tap), a paean to a lady’s rear end; and “Shower the People” (James Taylor), a fine final number.
On each of his evenings at the club he had a guest artist, including his wife Audra McDonald, on opening night. On this night Nick Adams was the lucky guy. Before Adams’ entrance, Swenson mused that if he were gay, Adams would be the object of his affections! They amusingly combined two love songs, swooning all over each other in mock passion.
Adams crooned “Reunited” (Dino Fekaris/Freddie Perren) against Swenson’s “Endless Love” (Lionel Ritchie). The two guys were in on the joke and pulled it off with a wonderful combination of good humor and great singing.
Despite some unevenness and odd pacing, this was an impressive performance by a guy willing to expose his emotions in music.
His wonderful musical ensemble was led by James Sampliner with Zachary Coe on drums, Randy Landau on bass and Justin Goldner on guitar.
Will Swenson appeared September 16-19, 2015
Feinstein’s/54 Below 254 West 54th Street, New York, NY
For reservations and information: 646-476-3551 or www.Feinstein’s/54Below.com
Video Preview Interview: Sandi Durell