BWW Review: BRIDGING THE GAP Brings Hope and Light To The Cabaret Room at 54 Below

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BWW Review: BRIDGING THE GAP Brings Hope and Light To The Cabaret Room at 54 Below

Heigh-Ho Friends & "Family"! Bobby Patrick your RAINBOW Reviewer here. Putting the silent T in CABARET to bring you all the T.

Do you hear that rumble my dumplings? It's faint. It's distant, but it is there. Soft right now, but persistent and growing slowly. With each new room that opens up, or each bar that sections off a part of its floor and adds a piano, or each restaurant that decides that dinner needs entertainment too... With each artist taking the stage to sing their stories for the first, tenth or one-hundredth time, that rumble is here in New York, and that ever lovin sound is revival, my children. For the last 30-some years, let's be honest, the art of cabaret has been on life support. Kept alive by those truly DEDICATED to its hospice care. You see, even in this past year, we said a sad goodbye to the venerable Metropolitan room, another music venue in the long line of rooms to close down in the last decade owing to the economy of New York City nightlife. HOWEVER, with the advent in the last few years of Feinstein's/54 Below, The Green Room 42, Pangea (one of the aforementioned bar/eateries that decided to add a piano and entertainment,) the remodel and addition of a new space at Birdland and a host of new, not so new & legendary talent all lining up to bring their songs to these latter-day stages, Cabaret in New York is beginning to stir from its comatose state.

There are levels to the Cabaret world; those at the top, those trying to get to the top and those just getting started... trying to get to the top. It is of this class I wish to write because it is 2:AM and Bobby has just come in from a late-night presentation at Feinstein's/54 Below of a showcase entitled BRIDGING THE GAP {5}. With Bridging The Gap (Educating The Next Generation Of Cabaret Artists) the marvelously talented and completely adorable Ari Axelrod brings to Feinstein's/54 Below his latest round of students who are adding their voices to the winds of this revival. Everyone starts as a beginner and Ari, who has a wealth of experience and talent in this artform, decided there was a need to be filled and a little bit of money to be made, giving beginners (of all ages) a leg up. Here is how it works; for a MODEST fee of $375 (at this writing, and Bobby wouldn't lie cherubs, anyone who takes any sort of performance-based classes can tell you that is indeed modest) a class of 10ish students gets:

5 weekly 3 hour classes
One of the classes taught by award-winning cabaret performer and director, The Fabulous Lina Koutrakos.
A live showcase of what they've learned at Feinstein's/54 Below very ably accompanied by Musical Director Mike Stapleton.
Footage of the showcase filmed by Famous In NY

That's quite a bang for your buck, believe me darlings. Reputable classes, taught by working professionals culminating in a real show where the students get to deliver 2 songs each to show their stuff to an open and supportive audience in a major venue is a gold mine.

Without going into a full headcount recap of every single performance from last night, which would bore you and irritate me, I can tell you that Ari's goal to teach his students to be themselves while singing songs that they love was met at the corner of Talent & Nerve and some real magic was made. In this session, BTG 5, all of the performers could be described as young, hungry and ready to prove they have stories to tell at the microphone. Yes, there were standouts, like the gifted Dani Apple, whose original song about how all the guys she dates are gay, followed by a winning Being Alive coupled with her vocal gifts and presence really impressed yours truly. But each and every singer brought unique qualities and talent to the stage, which, for those who were adept enough to make real connections with the room, played to the audience as genuine warmth and real acting moments presented with empathy and imagination. Some students are still working on making those real connections with their audience, some had vocal limitations that, on occasion were obvious, and others skirted their limitations quite well; singing right up to the line but not over it. There were performers who brought a straightforward cheek, like Elizabeth Carson, the one singer to handhold the mic and lean into the crook of the grand piano for her spiffy I Get A Kick Out Of You and Joel Hunter, who's slightly snarky humor helped to put over the ultimately too rangey (for him) I'm Just Glad, but then showed off a fuller richness to his voice with Stevie Nix's Rhiannon. In all 10 students sang 20 songs, with the final student, Alyssa Muniz showing why she was in the coveted finale spot giving such beautiful acting realness and vocal power to Sarah Bareilles' Many The Miles accompanied, no less, by her instructor. How Axelrod manages to bring such emotional depth to beating on a conga drum is beyond Bobby's comprehension dearlings, but he sure does just that. Was the show "perfection" no. Did the show EMBRACE IMPERFECTION? You bet it did, and in that embrace, a rich garden of entertainment blossomed as much as did these cabaret students.

For the unavoidable cabaret encore ("It's cabaret... There's always an encore." ~~Nancy LaMott) It was time for Axelrod to take the mic with Weather The Storm; showing us all that those who teach, can also do. Bringing his students to the stage for a final chorus he lovingly presented them for their bows and, with his own genuine warmth and pride, allowed them to receive their due applause one last time.

In all, Bridging The Gap is indeed teaching future artists that "Cabaret Is The Art Of Being Yourself On Purpose." - Dick Gallagher. Cabaret also offers those adult fans of singing, acting, and storytelling a place to go as adults and enjoy those arts without the exorbitant prices of theatre tickets but with a dash of booze & food and no putting up with the, let's face it, children's theatre vibe that Broadway seems to be cultivating these days.

Bobby highly recommends checking out the upcoming Bridging The Gap {6} playing Saturday, November 23 at the marvelous Feinstein's/54 Below. Also, check out their website to keep up with future BTG shows, because for us night owls, the entertainment is MORE than worth it and for that...

Bobby gives BTG a solid 4 out of 5 rainbows

To Keep up with Bridging The Gap see their website: HERE
Follow their IG: HERE (@bridgingthegap_nyc)
And Facebook: HERE

Ari Axelrod can be found on his webby: HERE
Followed HERE (IG)

And tickets to see his next live performance at Birdland, A Celebration of Jewish Broadway, can be got: HERE

To Get Tickets to the Next BTG {6} See The Feinstein's/54 Below Page: HERE

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From This Author Bobby Patrick