BWW Review: BROADWAY DADDIES Cuddle Up with 54 Below Audience
There were two themes to the show Broadway Daddies: A Celebration of Broadway Daddies, which played Feinstein's/54 Below on August 26th. The evening of male-dominated performances was, ostensibly, about being a father, but, as a benefit for the About Face Theatre of Chicago, it was also an evening about bringing LGBTQIA themed theater to schools and organizations around their city. The show featured men from the Broadway stage who are fathers, singing songs that are either about being a dad or that the individual fathers related to their experience as dads. Encouraged to share personal stories or dad jokes, each patriarch brought a personal piece of themselves to the sold-out house at 54 Below, where every member of the staff, from maitre d' to seating captains, from bartenders to servers, work their own brand of magic to ensure that every member of the audience has a stellar time.
The evening's hosts were Claybourne Elder and his husband, playwright Eric Rosen, who was the co-founder and artistic director of About Face Theatre in 1995. The couple is incredibly likable together, the kind of people you'd like to invite to game night, and divided the hosting duties between themselves, with Rosen doing most of the talking, while the Sunday in the Park with George alum, Elder, did a little singing. It was a delightful evening of dads and there were more than a few oohs and ahhs echoing in the air on this night of audible sighs.
Elder opened the show with an updated "Broadway Baby" that recounted the lifestyle of being a dad and doing eight shows a week, before turning the stage over to Cleve Asbury, whose fatherhood story told everyone how to become the coolest dad ever: invite Daniel Radcliffe to Christmas dinner. His impression of his How to Succeed in Business co-star was spot-on perfect. My Fair Lady's Michael Williams had no dad story, his child being only seven months old, but his song "New Words" was so sweetly delivered that the audience was most forgiving. Paul Stovall of Hamilton brought insane vocals to a performance of "Dear Theodosia" while Kevin Massey (Memphis) brought the house down with a medley of songs based on his feelings about becoming a father in these upcoming weeks. An under-rehearsed and slightly naughty "Daddy Medley" between Elder and Tom Berklund felt out of place, but the audience laughed it up, so maybe a little naughty was needed in the middle of all the sweetness and light.
Particularly easy on the ears were Jack Noseworthy's impeccable take on "Not While I'm Around", and Elder's tender "Hey Kid", while Charlie Pollock brought astonishing vocals to "Breeze off the River", right after sharing great dad stories with us, particularly about his difficulties singing this song without crying when he did The Full Monty, and having the director finally tell him that he would, eventually, have to sing the whole song. Amiable Ben Thompson wore his street clothes for his curtain call in Waitress and then rushed over to 54 Below to sing Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl", after tearfully declaring "Oh my god, I love my daughter" to a dreamy-eyed audience impressed by his openness and rock-star singing.
The powerhouse performances of the evening came from Andrew Kober, who should be doing stand-up somewhere, in the form of a 90's tv theme song medley that had an entire room of adults singing along to "Duck Tales", and Raymond J. Lee, whose pleasing personality was offset by a howl-inducing medley of "Tomorrow" and "Defying Gravity". These two men truly brought the house down, but in the name of saving the best for last, Bryce Pinkham brought an affable air of sincerity to his presence on the stage, explaining that this is the first night he and his wife have been away from their newborn, as he delivered a most emotional rendition of "Everything Changes" from Waitress. All of the men in the show deserved the massive amounts of applause they got (as do their spouses and babysitters), and having Mr. Pinkham close out the night with this delicate display of fatherly love was the perfect way to end a night devoted to the art, the bliss, the pride of being a father, a great dad, and a good man.
Jack NoseworthyRay Lee
Claybourne Elder and Tom Berklund
Photos by Stephen Mosher