BWW CD Reviews: WHEN I GROW UP: BROADWAY'S NEXT GENERATION - Live at 54 BELOW is Enlivened Fun
Musical Direction by Michael J. Moritz, Jr. keeps the music vibrant and invigorating. Working with the young voices and bringing out as much maturity as possible must have been a real challenge, but he vastly succeeds throughout the entire album. This is not to say that all of the gifted youngsters sound like adults when they sing these songs, but each performer comes as close as their developing instruments will let them. Moreover, the youthful performers impressively find pitches, with only a few minor tuning issues rearing their ugly heads on the recording. These kids didn't have the safety net of recording in a studio, which must have made this live performance even more nerve wracking than usual.
This disc features such an eclectic mix of music and voices that I'm positive everyone can find something to enjoy on the album. My absolute favorite performance is Matthew Gumley's rendition of "Someone To Fall Back On" by Jason Robert Brown from SOMEONE ELSE'S CLOTHES. I had never heard the song until I listened to this record, and I was moved and mesmerized by his clean and poignant performance. He perfectly builds the song, letting it grow until its dazzling flourish. Rounding out my top three tracks are "Superboy and the Invisble Girl" from Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey's NEXT TO NORMAL sung by Isabela Moner and Matthew Schecter and Isabela Moner's "Bring the Future Faster" from Paul Scott Goodman's ROOMS. On both tracks Isabela Moner is simply phenomenal. Her voice sounds mature. She gorgeously emotes the angst and desperation of both characters, creating music that is uplifting, driving, and spirited. Mattew Schecter's accompaniment on "Superboy and the Invisible Girl" blends perfectly with Isabela Moner's voice, bringing out the strength and passion of the song as they both belt with impactful resonance.
Other standout performances include Ethan Haberfield's emotive version of John Kander and Fred Ebb's "Mister Cellophane" from CHICAGO. Ethan Haberfield also brings a Norbert Leo Butz-like sound and tangible confidence to the witty number "Farmer Tan," which was pulled from John Foley, Mark Hardwick, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan, John Schimmel, and Kim Wann's PUMP BOYS AND THE DINETTES. On "Farmer Tan" both Isabela Moner and Zoe Considine provide animated back-up vocals. Likewise, Kelsey Fowler is evocative and stirring with her rendition of Jeff Bowen's "A Way Back To Then" from [TITLE OF SHOW]. She gently builds the number making the belted portion sparkle with her precision and poise.