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Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note

Two years between installments didn't affect the quality of this Abby DePhillips-helmed series.

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note

In what is easily one of the most enjoyable group shows to come along this or any other year, producer Abby DePhillips and the Musical Director Who Is The Most, Benjamin Rauhala, made a jam-packed house at Feinstein's/54 Below holiday happy last night. Indeed, before discussing the program, a few words should be said about concierge Dylan Bustamante and the rest of the 54 Below front-of-house staff. On any given night in the Midtown Manhattan Supper Club, the entire staff of 54 Below best resembles The Waiter's Gallop, but last night so, So, SO many people wanted to see the second edition of A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST that there were hardly enough seats in the club to accommodate them all. Like MIT techs fixing the most complex problem of your day, Bustamante and co. managed to find a seat for every person and still get the show started (mostly) on time; it was an indoor miracle worth witnessing. Then, once the last person had been seated and the actors were in place, the fun could begin.

And what fun this was.

A follow-up to the 2019 production A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST, the production curated and produced by DePhillips has a simple enough theme: the songs you listen to at home in your jammies, eating ice cream, and mourning a love lost. To that end, all the performers dressed in some form or loungewear, from Tyler Joseph Ellis's dalmatian union suit to Jessica Vosk's nightshirt to all the men in sweats (except for Sam Gravitte, who appeared deliciously dressed for a night out dancing, and nobody was complaining). Furthermore, Benjamin's piano was a purgatorial wasteland of snack bags, sweet treats, juice boxes, and tissues, while he (especially fetching in his own cloud-tie-dyed shorts and hoodie) played for the artists in ways that only The Fairy Godfairy could achieve (smart or lucky patrons might, occasionally, take their eyes off of the singers to look at Benjamin as, with the most loving expression on his face, he observed their storytelling, a mass of admiration). With this simple framework in place, DePhilips and co. presented to an adoring throng of cheering fans and followers what was sheer perfection from start to finish. With each new number audience members exclaimed "WOW" as, during the applause, everyone wondered if the show could get better which, not surprisingly, it did. No stone was left unturned in each actor's insistence at bringing to the stage of 54 Below the best storytelling of the holiday season.

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note
Benjamin Rauhala keeping watch over Pierre Marais

With each show in which this writer sees Carrie St. Louis appear as a soloist, her grasp on my attention grows. Last night's performance of "So Much Better" opened the evening with the right combination of comedy and music, belting and acting, complete with smeared mascara and wedding veil. John Cardoza elicited sighs with a little Evan Hansen and some vascular biceps while Mr. Gravitte broke some hearts with Jamie's diatribe about believing in Cathy, and Lauren Nicole Chapman used her sweet voice to remind everyone what it feels like to be 13. Sharing a table with three strangers that I'd like to have at all my tables, I couldn't help but notice that the women might have been teary-eyed at Josh Breckenridge's "If I Can't Love Her" but the men were the ones really affected. The man to my left kept repeating, "Holy SH*T!" and the one and only note I made on my paper next to Breckenridge's name was "WOW." Josh left a similar impression on the rest of the club, given the volume of the screams around the room.

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note

With special moments like Derek Klena performing "It All Fades Away" in a way that rivals the legendary original and Jessica Vosk filling in, last minute, for Jackie Burns while Deanna Giulietti and Tyler Joseph Ellis acted as improv back-up dancers, every artist who stepped up onto stage deserved the rousing ovations they earned, especially Pierre Marias, accompanying himself on guitar for a letter-perfect "Leave" from ONCE. It was particularly gratifying to hear "Heart of Stone" in Vosk's voice and to see Ms. Giulietti celebrate a break-up, rather than wallow in it, but for this writer, the highlights of the evening lay in Mr. Ellis's excitingly excessive "In Short", an incredibly individual "Gethsemane" by Nick Edwards, and a furiously funny (with props, no less) "I'm Gonna Wash That Man...." by Becky Gulsvig with an assist from fabulous backup singers Rachel Mackenzie and Jillian Jameson. All this overwhelming and fully appreciated talent was not wasted on the screaming, applauding audience, but none of it could have prepared 54 Below for the finale, the unquestionable triumph of the evening.

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note

Salome Smith and Benjamin Rauhala joined (metaphysical and musical) hands to send everyone home on the highest of highs with a performance of "I'm Here" that had no other effect in every corner of the room than to reach inside the hearts of every person present, flicking the "on" switch. For anyone who has ever felt passed over, invisible, or pushed down, Ms. Smith found a personal take on the famous anthem to remind each person that they, like she, are beautiful. Even when Ben's tablet froze, interrupting the transition from tender to tidal, Salome and the audience remained as one organism, celebrating unity in positivity and the power of empowerment in the form of self-respect and love. With her final cry to the sky in the ultimate song that speaks for all, Salome Smith reminded all that we are one, that we are beautiful, that we are worthy of love. For a holiday season at the end of two of the worst years in all our lives, Smith's was a reminder that there is beauty everywhere.

And last night, the beauty filled every space and every heart at 54 Below during the best group show of 2021, A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II.

Find wonderful shows to see at 54 Below HERE.

The cast of BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II gets a four out of five microphones rating for the occasional use of a lyric sheet, tablet, or music stand.

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note
Tyler Joseph Ellis

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note
Pierre Marais

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note
Pondering whether Jessica Vosk will know all the words to Jackie Burns' song...
Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note
... she did.

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note
Jillian Jameson
Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note
Rachel Mackenzie

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note
Jillian and Rachel join Becky out front.

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note
John Cardoza

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note

Review: A BROADWAY BREAKUP PLAYLIST VOL. II at Feinstein's/54 Below Starts The Holidays On a High Note Photos by Stephen Mosher



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From This Author - Stephen Mosher

Stephen Mosher is the author of The Sweater Book (a collection of his photography featuring celebrated artists from the entertainment communities of New York, Los Angeles, and London), Lived In Cra... (read more about this author)


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