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BWW Review: BONNIE MILLIGAN Raises the Roof at 54 Below


Bonnie Milligan Leaves It All on the Stage

BWW Review: BONNIE MILLIGAN Raises the Roof at 54 Below

Bonnie Milligan is what Broadway used to sound like: brassy, belted, and funny. Thank God, there are still women around who know how to do it. There is a huge difference between "screlting" at the top of your lungs and charmingly selling a song in a big voice. Ethel Merman knew the difference. So does Bonnie Milligan. She made one of the most talked-about Broadway debuts in seasons as the deliciously vain Princess Pamela in Head Over Heels. She confessed that it's been 3 years since she last did a solo show. Tonight at Feinstein's 54 Below, she made up for lost time, delivering a stellar, and surprisingly vulnerable self-titled show.

Like many artists, she used her experiences during the pandemic as a framework to hang show-stopping numbers on. The first thing she did was to take the stage like one of the grande dames of musical theatre past. Borrowing a page from Carol Channing, she led the audience in a chorus of "Hello, Dolly!," appropriately re-titled "Hello, Bonnie!" while she paraded around the room as if it was the famous Harmonia Gardens passerelle. It's hard to follow up an entrance like that. And yet she did with Andrew Lippa's "Raise the Roof." She dedicated Jule Styne's "The Music That Makes Me Dance" to all the audiences who have been sorely missed during the pandemic. She confessed her love for old Doris Day movies, using one of Day's songs "I Want to Be Happy" to point out the political incorrectness of such co-dependent lyrics.

She took a moment to pay tribute to the love affair she embarked on during the pandemic with a medley of songs about time. This was accompanied by a slideshow depicting all the movies and television series she has streamed during the pandemic. Her television watching was truly prolific and impressive. She started to sing the mournful strains of "All By Myself." when in the middle she was joined by special guest star, Matt Doyle (Spring Awakening, War Horse, The Book of Mormon.) Together they finished the song in a hysterical Celine Dion-style belt-off.

BWW Review: BONNIE MILLIGAN Raises the Roof at 54 Below

Milligan then proved that she is not merely a comedian when she sang a beautifully acted version of "The Man That Got Away." She saluted one of my heroes, Cass Elliot, with her hit "Make Your Own Kind of Music" Then she gave us her own signature song, "Beautiful" from Head Over Heels. It was s tour-de-force performance.

She used the last section of her show to discuss things that were lost in the pandemic. First, to her sense of identity, she dedicated Sara Bareilles' "She Used to Be Mine." The most moving number in the show was "His Eye Is On the Sparrow" which was dedicated to her dad, who passed away near the beginning of the pandemic. She brought a sense of healing to the end of her show with a gorgeous rendition of "Make Someone Happy."

BWW Review: BONNIE MILLIGAN Raises the Roof at 54 Below

Bonnie Milligan was supported by a badass band that featured only women. Musical director, Meg Zervoulis, bassist, Sherisse Rogers, and drummer, Rosa Avila did amazing work. The arrangements and orchestrations were by the wonderful Mary-Mitchell Campbell. The encore was a particular treat. After so much loud singing, Ms. Milligan gave us a very tender and heartfelt reading of "Glory of Love." It felt like the perfect punctuation at the end of a well-written sentence. Bonnie Milligan is a very special talent.

BWW Review: BONNIE MILLIGAN Raises the Roof at 54 Below

Bonnie Milligan performs again at 54 Below on Thursday evening. Tickets are available at For more information on Bonnie Milligan follow her @BeltingBonnie on Twitter or @beltingbons on Instagram.

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