BWW Review: BROADWAY PRINCESS PARTY at 54 Below Takes Audiences To Once Upon A Time... A Couple Of Times
Heigh-Ho Friends & "Family"! Bobby Patrick your RAINBOW Reviewer here. Putting the silent T in CABARET to bring you all the T.
My dears, Bobby is still the rainbow equivalent of farmisht as we tap away at this keyboard. Last night we attended our very first BROADWAY PRINCESS PARTY at Feinstein's/54 Below. The brainchild and creative perfect storm of the evening's delightful host and musical director extraordinaire, Benjamin Rauhala.
Once upon a time, little Benji had a dream of playing the piano after hearing Susan Egan sing HOME in the original Broadway production of Disney's Beauty And The Beast. Well, little Benji sprouted little Tinker Bell wings and flew full steam ahead into that dream and between Broadway Princess Party (BPP), touring with the likes of Jeremy Jordan, Kyle Dean Massey, and Krysta Rodriguez, not to mention working on and Off-Broadway, my fellow cupcake does not seem to ever stop. But this concert that features heroines of Broadway shows, most of whose characters hold the royal title of Disney Princess, is truly inspired. Not just in the creative vein either, because judging from the crowd's response and their tour schedule, they must all be reaping the rewards of that elusive jewel in the world of the theatre... WORK.
Looking around at the crowd at last night's 9:30 show (they had to do 2 shows in one evening owing to demand) one could see the full range of young, young at heart and UBER Fans. I was delighted and a little awed at a table occupied with mature ladies each wearing animated-feature-sized wigs and basically done up heads to toes in the tresses, dresses, and jewelry of their favorite Disney heroines. Before the show began, all around the room, men and women and everything in-between of all ages had donned tiaras (I kick myself for forgetting mine!) and were twittering with excitement and anticipation. For you see, this was the night that bonafide Disney Legend Award Winner (2011) Jodi Benson (ARIEL!!!) would join the company. That company consists of a core group of ladies, with some guest star gents to sing the odd duet with, and then they mix in FAB guest star ladies to enjoy the fun. No, not enjoy ... to BRING IT! On this night our 3 featured princesses were Cinderella, Jasmine and Belle/Meg; otherwise known by their nom-de-voyages Laura Osnes, Courteney Reed & Susan Egan. Ms. Egan is the one double crown princess having created the role of Belle in Broadway's Beauty And The Beast as well as giving voice to Meg in Disney's Hercules. Another guest star in this evening was Hercules' new live-action love interest, the FAB Krysta Rodriguez who inherits the role of Meg from Egan in the Broadway-bound musical version. Rounding out this night of stars to wish upon was Aisha Jackson, a young lady whose career of waiting in the wings as swing/standby/understudy must be about to end because she has shown she belongs in the spotlight DSC (Ohhh ok Down Stage Center!)
With loving support from their Fairy Godfairy, Rauhala on the piano, our three princesses invite us to JOIN THE PARTY and then launch straight into songs from Rogers & Hammerstein's Cinderella, Frozen and Alladin. Shifting on and off the stage to pass the baton for solos or to make up one of the niftiest trios you could imagine. When Krysta Rodriguez made the trio a quartette, there were the obligatory nods to the 2 Megs being on stage together made all the more amusing by the factoid that Rodriguez and Egan both attended the same high school... at different times (wink). Rodriguez sang with Egan I WON'T SAY I'M IN LOVE from Disney's Hercules film and then was joined by the wonderful voiced and impossibly handsome Jelani Alladin (Frozen's Kristoff) for a hilarious preview of FORGET ABOUT IT to be heard when HERC comes to Broadway. In a slightly dark turn, Rodriguez also gave forth the black comedy of her Wednesday Addams number PULLED demonstrating why she was, by far, the best thing about that show. Aisha Jackson, Frozen's first African American standby for Anna, told of how she found out she was going on in Frozen exactly one day BEFORE the first understudy rehearsal and of a little girl in the audience who, upon Jackson's first entrance, marveled out loud to her mother that Anna looked like her. So sweet... and then she knocked our socks off with FOR THE FIRST TIME IN FOREVER.
To take NOTHING away from the show's regular cast, the inclusion of Jodi Benson was an inspired move that raised the energy in the audience and on the stage and helped turn a cabaret room into a concert hall. Taking on 4 numbers in a row that included singing, for the first time in 30 years, the beautifully poetic Part Of Your World Reprise, Benson's performance and voice did not disappoint. Through tears, she sang the words of and spoke about her dear friend, the late lyricist Howard Ashman, and how he told her she would not like the final cut of Part Of Your World because it was not PERFECT, but that it was perfect for the story. A lesson learned about embracing imperfection. And speaking of embracing, that's what the audience did for Ms. Benson and as the nerves she confessed to feeling diminished in that warmth, watching this wonderful actress ACT her musical stories was total awesomeness to hear and see.
Saving the biggest, best and most popular for the end, Courtney Reed brought the chiseled features of the princely Adam Levy to the stage (where do they find these men... no really where? Bobby needs to know!) for a soaringly beautiful God Help The Outcasts, followed by Egan's Home (The song that literally inspired Rauhala's musical ambitions), and Osnes taking Anastasia's Journey To The Past. Then it was time, you knew it was coming my dears, time for all the Princesses to take the stage for their finale. A full-throated sextette of... wait for it... Let It Go! Hearing this song with Rauhula's wonderful arrangement caused everyone in the audience to gasp, catch their breath and cheer, all at the same time.
So my dumplings, if you are a princess or a princess at heart I strongly urge you to go to the Broadway Princess Party website: HERE
And check out their tour dates and see if they are coming to a city near you. We really can't recommend this evening of bright, fluffy, Disney magic highly enough so we must give this one
5 out of 5 rainbows!