BWW Review: A Pack Of Hipsters Become Hep Cats At Feinstein's/54 Below And Bring Back A Hint Of The Roaring 20's in THE SECRET NOT-SO-SECRET SHOW
Heigh-Ho Friends & "Family"! Bobby Patrick your RAINBOW Reviewer here. Putting the silent T in CABARET to bring you all the T.
Well, my lambs, it is now 2020 and since we're moving into a decade with a designation we can all agree on, the 20's, can a nostalgic trend be too far behind? Answer; of course not, silly Bobby. So, already it is fast becoming chic to be a canary or a hep cat again. All over NYC performers of the hipster generation and clubs, looking to make a buck, are starting to call out to the days of gin joints, passwords, and secret entertainments in nightclubs. We all knew it would happen, didn't we, my darlings? Of course we did and so, with only a slight eye-roll upon receiving this assignment, we took ourselves down to 54th Street to see my first Roaring 20's themed offering of the season. THE SECRET NOT-SO-SECRET SHOW at Feinstein's/54 Below offered up a company of young musical hopefuls and 2 bonafide Broadway stars; Courtney Reed (Mama Mia, In The Heights and Disney's original Jasmine in Aladdin) and Telly Leung (Rent, Godspell, Allegiance, GLEE, etc..)
Stalking through the premises a few minutes before the show was Roxie Rhodes, played by London based artist Haley Catherine decked out in 20's style chanteuse black sequins and sparkling jewelry, who kicked off the night with a rousing Come On-A My House (a song written in 1939?) during which she set up (the VERY) loose premise of the 20's speakeasy vibe. She then Introduced cast members Brock Harris and Johnson Brock as the cousins "to keep the show buzzin," Aubrey Downing (another "cousin" meant to be the evening's stage manager but who was basically an unused fixture in the room) and a trio of flapper clad ladies -- Gillian Bell, Mallory Moser, & Elisabeth Slaten who, with nicely tight harmonies, brought an Andrews Sisters feel to their Doo-Wopish number WILLY THE WEEPER.
Throughout the show, the "surprise they just dropped in guests" who took turns at the mic included: David Marmanillo making a trio out of IN THE JAILHOUSE NOW (1928!!) with gorgeous, smooth-as-silk cast member Brock Harris & equally hot Music Director Colte Julian, hilarious JUST A GIGOLO/I AIN'T GOT NOBODY mash-up performer Steven Cutts, and lovely Lee Harrington with a straightforward and beautiful LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME. But the stand out of the evening was our hostess, Roxie Roads (Haley Catherine - of the 2 first names) who, with her Opening number, plus her THE LADY IS A TRAMP, her FEVER medley (that mashed up music from many decades) and her DON'T RAIN ON MY PARADE wowed the audience repeatedly.
Now to bring a little rain with Bobby's usual rainbows, dearlings... Where the evening missed the mark a little was a lack of commitment to the 20's bit; overall there was way too much loosey-goosey improvisational transition by the cast between songs. The idea "We're all drinking and having a good time ain't we and some are having too good a time to show up for their number so someone else is going to sing for you now..." kind of lost steam. Or the "Look who I found hanging around in the audience! Why don't you come up and do a number?" ran cold. These are all bits that fell short because of a lack of rehearsal or any real scripted comedy being baked into the proceedings. Also, while the cast of the show made decent efforts to evoke the speakeasy theme in dress and manner, the commitment was not strong enough to transport the audience through time, which should really have been the goal. Don't get Bobby wrong here darlings... All the singers for the evening performed exceptionally well and that made up for a lot of the show's shortcomings. Sexy, sultry Courtney Reed gave out with a sexy, sultry WHY DON'T YOU DO RIGHT that at least mentions 1922, but was written in 1936. Handsome, perineal Broadway youth, Telly Leung gave the crowd a lush, romantic EVERY TIME WE SAY GOODBYE and poof, that youth became a leading man right before Bobby's eyes.
Overall, the crowd got an enjoyable 50 minute set of music and F/54B's excellent menus. We just wish the cast and the club had gone the distance to bring about a new Roaring 20's to 54th Street, maybe with shifty doormen and gangster motifs. Nothing wrong with evoking the period, and even updating it with modern musical offerings, but most of the set consisted of songs that were "old" but neither old enough for the 1920's nor new enough to celebrate the 2020's. In all though, we had a gay old time and we give THE SECRET NOT-SO-SECRET SHOW - 3 rainbows out of 5.
For All Things Feinstein's/54 Below: CLICK HERE
*All Photos By Yours Truly, Bobby Patrick