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BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right

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Scott Siegel, his company, and the fans bid farewell to Christina Bianco.

BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right There was a farewell party in Midtown Manhattan last night. There has been a series of going away celebrations, the last few months, as the nightclub community prepared to lose Christina Bianco, one of the brightest lights in the industry, to a three-year run of the play THE RISE AND FALL OF LITTLE VOICE in the United Kingdom. Ms. Bianco has spent the last few months putting out fires, transporting her life overseas, fulfilling stateside performance commitments, and saying so long to friends, family, colleagues, and fans. Last night, impresario Scott Siegel turned his latest edition of 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! into a mini-Christina Bianco concert, by way of creating a send-off for one of his favorite performers from his roster of entertainers.

BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right
Scott Siegel

54 Sings Broadway's Greatest Hits! is a long-running series for Siegel and for Feinstein's, and it isn't a ground-breaker. Audiences will not have their minds challenged at the benevolent and benign series, probably one of the reasons for the show's popularity. True to his brand, what Mr. Siegel presents at this concert series is an evening of live entertainment that permits the people in the seats to turn off their minds, sit in the seats, sip some wine, and enjoy the music. He frames the setlist around some well-researched and economically written history, trivia, and factoids, all of which he delivers in between complimentary (almost paternally boastful) introductions of the actors that will perform the musical portion of the evening, and it has to be said: Mr. Siegel does not scrimp on the talent. The obvious lover of actors has a knack for the bringing together of supremely gifted singing actors, another reason for the success of all of his concerts, and last night was no exception.

BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right
Ben Jones with Andrew Bourgoin

Without connective tissue like a specific year or composer, Mr. Siegel takes a scattershot approach to the song selection, allowing the element of surprise for the audience, but that doesn't mean he doesn't take careful consideration when putting it together. For instance, last night the clever decision was made to ask recent Broadway World Cabaret Award winner for Best Ensemble Vocalist, Ben Jones, to sing the beautiful and banal ballad "On The Street Where You Live" and, later, the interesting and intricate musical monologue "Finishing the Hat" as his offerings for the evening. There are only a handful of songs as pretty as the My Fair Lady classic, but it is a piece completely lacking in stakes, so Jones and Siegel wisely added all of Freddy Eynsford Hill's dialogue to the number, making the entire experience into an ongoing monologue grounded by Mr. Jones's beautiful tenor. Conversely, the duo placed Jones on a stool for the Sondheim composition, inarguably one of the great acting pieces for a man in musical theater, allowing Ben to do it all with his face, his body, his voice, and the manner in which they embrace Mr. Sondheim's story.

BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right
Gabrielle Baker

For their parts, Gabrielle Baker and John Easterlin were given book-end ballads to showcase skills that kept them, firmly, in their lanes, the lady exhibiting a rewarding combination of singing and acting talents on numbers from Merrily We Roll Along and Hair, while the gentleman from the opera world set the microphone to one side in order to display the gorgeousness of his voice with songs from The Desert Song and Spring Is Here. Both artists were met with cheers from an audience that clearly appreciated the yin of musical theater and the yang of opera, presented to perfection by their efforts. Between Baker, Easterlin, and Jones, though, the evening was leaning heavily into Ballad Land, a fact blissfully balanced by two tap dance-informed numbers by new fiancees Kelly Sheehan and Bryan Hunt, and there is never a bad time for some tap dancing on the 54 Below stage, particularly in so delightful a duo. From Mr. Jones's opening number to Mr. Easterlin's finale, all of these actors acquitted themselves beautifully, and all five of them were extremely generous in allowing Mr. Siegel to turn over the stage, for four consecutive numbers, to the unquestionable star of the night, Ms. Bianco.

BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right
Christina Bianco

Christina Bianco is a masterful concertmistress, and her mini-set in the program last night was a fitting farewell to the actress who, though dubbed The Woman of a Thousand Voices, stands very nicely on her own talent and her own two legs, possibly the prettiest in the business since Cyd Charisse, if this writer can pay Ms. Bianco the compliment without sounding objectifying or misogynistic. Naturally, Christina did two numbers rich with impressions ranging from Bernadette Peters to Idina Menzel, from Liza to Celine, and though the impressions were thrilling and filled with levity, the chance to be in a room while Christina Bianco sang "Gimme Gimme" and "The Music That Makes Me Dance" was one not to be missed. Given the response of the audience, this was precisely what they came for - it was clear that, once the word got out that Christina Bianco would be performing in Mr. Siegel's January edition of the series, the fans called in for their tickets. The fans were not disappointed, and they will, no doubt, visit the YouTube airwaves to catch the show videos of the event to satisfy their future Bianco cravings, as the lady takes the UK by storm. It was a magnificent send-off, created by a man who, clearly, adores the woman on the move.

Perhaps it was that adoration of Christina Bianco that showed Scott Siegel in a new light for this writer who has, in the past, criticized his hosting technique.

BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right
John Easterlin

Pre-pandemic I had a chance to catch an installment of 54 Salutes Frank Sinatra and, in my review, I had much to say about Mr. Siegel's work as an emcee, most of it uncomplimentary. Today, I have no criticisms of his hosting efforts last night. Indeed, I found Scott Siegel to be quite charming, accessible, entertaining. Although he did keep his choir binder-encased script handy for the history lessons of the night, Mr. Siegel often broke from the script, talking to the audience with funny little asides here, personal anecdotes there, words of ardor for Ms. Bianco, and words of appreciation for his wife, Barbara. Mr. Siegel, last night, showed this writer a little bit of who he is, and what this writer got is that Scott Siegel is a sweet guy, a patriarchal producer who loves the arts and loves the artists, and spends his time industriously showcasing both. That was more than extremely apparent when he hit pause on the show to do a kind of channel thirteen pledge break. With two numbers to go, Siegel stopped the action to thank some benefactors who were in the audience, to speak of their generosity, to tell others in the audience how they could sponsor his concerts - it was a lengthy moment in the play that could have become boring or annoying but it didn't because Mr. Siegel's gratitude was so genuine, his mission was so visible, his personal investment was so strong. It became patently clear to this writer, what exactly Scott Siegel does and how deeply he invests in it. Many times throughout the year the gentleman presents concerts like this, whether they are part of a series or independent evenings with a theme, like his upcoming Liza and Barbra tributes. With those shows, Mr. Siegel provides opportunities for actors to perform, for entertainers to have 54 Below debuts (like last night's tappers, Bryan and Kelly), he provides opportunities for audiences to get out of the house and enjoy some live music by gifted artists. There are multitudes of these shows throughout the year - that's a lot of opportunities he gives to a lot of people, and this writer gets it now, and appreciates it, and supports it.

BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right

If there were one observation that I feel needs to be made it would be that the entire cast of last night's concert was caucasian. One should assume that Mr. Siegel had a hard time finding actors of diversity who were available to do a show on January 8th, 2022, but I might offer that, that being the case, Mr. Siegel should have upped his A-Game and tried just a little bit harder. Any and everyone who creates, curates, produces or presents a group cabaret, concert or club act has an obligation to never again play a show with a cast lacking in diversity. There are gifted black and brown and trans and non-binary actors who have stories to tell and talent to share, and they belong in every single group cabaret on every single nightclub stage in New York City. Let us assume that last night was an isolated incident and that, moving forward, there will be no Scott Siegel production with a cast that is exclusively white, exclusively male, exclusively female, but that all Scott Siegel shows will feature a cast that is as diverse and resplendent as the material that Mr. Siegel seeks to present.

As for last night's concert, let all who were present be grateful that they took a chance on the cold weather and the covid variant and got out of the house for Ben Jones, Gabrielle Baker, John Easterlin, Bryan Hunt, Kelly Sheehan, and one last time with The Greatest Star, Christina Bianco.

For a while.

The Musical Director for 54 Sings Broadway's Greatest Hits! is the gifted Andrew Bourgoin.

Find great shows to see on the Feinstein's/54 Below website HERE.

In January Scott Siegel will present shows at 54 Below about Frank Sinatra (Click HERE), Liza Minnelli (Click HERE), Barbra Streisand (Click HERE), and another episode of this series (Click HERE).

The cast of 54 Sings Broadway's Greatest Hits! cast gets a five out of five microphones rating for performing their entire show without the use of a lyric sheet, tablet, or music stand.

BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right

BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right

BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right

BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right

BWW Review: 54 SINGS BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS! at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts 2022 Off Right Photos by Stephen Mosher


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