BWW Review: BROADWAY SINGS UNPLUGGED: SARA BAREILLES Wows Audience at The Green Room 42
I checked the website. I checked it again. In fact, every few days I checked to make sure there were no changes in the info for BROADWAY SINGS UNPLUGGED: Sara Bareilles. Every time I looked I read that the October 21st cast would feature Kelli Barrett and Jarrod Spector, so I reserved my seats for the October 21st performance because I wanted to see Kelli Barrett and Jarrod Spector. And on the morning of October 21st, I woke, very excited to attend the performance because I always have fun at The Green Room 42, because I love Sara Bareilles, and because I was going to see Kelli Barrett and Jarrod Spector.
So I took 30 seconds to sulk and 30 seconds to pout. That's 30 seconds for Kelli Barrett and 30 seconds for Jarrod Spector. Then I put my disappointment aside and sat back to enjoy the cast that I would be seeing, many of whose work was unfamiliar to me. Getting to know new performers is always a good thing - you might discover someone exciting, you might might come upon someone interesting, you might find someone you like more than ... well, that's enough of that.
BROADWAY SINGS is a concert series produced by Corey Mach and musical directed by Joshua Stephen Kartes. Founded in 2012, the series has been extremely popular over the years, and while they have performed in a few different venues, they are currently calling Sony Hall home. The concerts feature a lot more musicians than can fit on the stage at The Green Room 42, so when The GR42 asked them to bring their Sara Bareilles concert over, Misters Mach and Kartes cut things back to only a few instruments and only a handful of stunningly gifted musicians, they added Broadway singers, mixed and baked 'til golden bubbly, and booked a few dates, to the delight of fans old and new because the room was nearly full on October 21st. Why it wasn't completely full is a mystery because this was one of the most fun nights to be had in a club, and I should know, since I'm in a club every night of the week. The evening was like an intimate rock concert with nine of the greatest singers this writer has ever heard, and this is not hyperbole, not even close. With each new vocalist who took the stage, the eyes grew wider, the jaw fell slacker, and the awe brought to the front of one's mind by the idea that there are people who can sing like this who aren't the most famous singers in the world is as big as the voices that were filling the room. Not only were these performers astonishingly gifted vocally, they all had super cute personalities, making the crowd laugh, giving us a chance to know little things about them, and then reeling us in with those out-of-this-world voices, voices showcased to maximum effect by the sound design of GR42 technical director Marty Gasper, whose lights and sound become a character in every piece of theater seen in a venue with ever-growing popularity that is nothing more than absolutely well-deserved.
Kicking the evening off with a mash-up of "One Sweet Love/I Choose You," Alexa Green was exciting as hell to watch and to listen to. What a way to open a show! There was no announcement, she just walked up on the stage in the dark, waited for the light, and started singing with a voice that grabbed the audience and made them pay attention on the spot. When people dream of being a singer, this is the voice they dream of having.
Coning to the stage with the tune "Many the Miles" was an infectious Jason Gotay, who is a fireball of energy not to be contained. Where he went vocally, his physicality went, too, with moves that make you want to get up out of your seat and dance, and quirky, fun, in-the-moment facial expressions that win the heart. Watching, I thought to myself: "I want a whole night of this." So when is this rockstar's solo show going to happen? Tell me now so I can put the date on my Google calendar.
I was wildly curious about Jessica Vosk, having heard tell of her talent, but never having experienced it first hand. So was my date for the evening, who said "I'm most excited about seeing Jessica Vosk," leading to an in-depth discussion about all we've heard... and you know what? Everything we've heard is true. Jessica Vosk's performance of "Door Number Three" was all it took to win me over, and enough to make me wish they hadn't cut the number from WAITRESS. Jessica Vosk is a delight, a most engaging performer and a really funny lady - so much so that I didn't even mind that she had to read her lyrics off a music stand, one of my pet peeves. Not this night, though. She could have read an entire score off that music stand, as long as she read it while singing and winking at us, the way she seemed to do at this show. Jessica Vosk put a new fan in her pocket on October 21st. More, please.
Corey Mach, creator of the concert series, joined the band onstage and offered the first real conversation of the evening, discussing the history of BROADWAY SINGS and their new home at Sony Hall. Tall and handsome, the ideal leading man, Mr. Mach brought all the charm and all the feels by launching into a magnificently performed "Between the Lines" that brought all the Wow factor one would expect from the man responsible for all of this blissful happiness.
And speaking of Wow factor, in my notes for the evening, all I wrote next to the name Patty Lohr was the word WOW, underlined. Her song? The oh-so-popular anthem "Brave," sung so gloriously that one suspects the song's composer might even be a little surprised her song could sound this good. A person with this performance in their iPhone would never worry about being sad or down again, one listen of this could lift even Eyore out of the doldrums. It was at this point that I wished they were recording this night, or filming it, or making some kind of archive of it, because these young people deserve to be seen, and the public deserves to hear them. This is a wealth of talent from the Broadway performers of today and tomorrow, and they are not to be ignored or overlooked, and neither is Joshua Stephen Kartes, their musical director and bandleader, whose nimble fingers pound the keys so gently and lovingly as to inspire instantaneous joy-filled laughter from anyone nearby with a working pair of ears. And the band, the band, the band. Have Mercy.
Katie Boeck did it her way on October 21st, because she had a baby a little while back and completely identifies with the story in "She Used to Be Mine," as she explained before taking on the Eleven O'Clock number from WAITRESS - a song sung by almost everyone, each version epic and worthy of attention. Katie joins the list of actresses (and actors) to take on the song and succeed by making it personal and making it real by not falling prey to those previous iconic performances with so many views on Youtube. Katie Boeck simply focused on the lyric, the notes, the emotion, and her own story and, voila, the song was seemingly brand new to us, never-before heard, and dressed to perfection by the new mom on the stage before us. Gorgeous.
It was destined that Matt DeAngelis' performance would be my favorite of the night because he chose to do my personal favorite Sara Bareilles song "Little Black Dress" - only he turned it into the biggest, loudest, rock and rollest performance you'll ever see of a dude singing about his little black dress. With more ass-shaking sass and marvelous moxie than a straight white dude in a porkpie hat should be allowed to have, he delivered a performance that blew the roof off the joint, and the crowd was screaming when he was done...
Which made it super hilarious when Kyra Kennedy took center stage and said: "I'm actually going to sing the same song" to gales of laughter. And once you've made your audience laugh with you, why not give them a most hypnotic and beautiful performance of "Manhattan" ever, to mellow them out? Seems like a good strategy to me, and it really worked for the mesmerizing Ms. Kennedy and for the show because when she finished the haunting melody the audience was so hypnotized they forgot to clap for an instant. It was a moment of pure witchcraft by Kyra Kennedy - but by this time the audience was so in love with the entire night that no performer could put a foot wrong.
Delivering the kind of rock and roll performance for which he has come to be known, Blaine Krauss effectively ended the first half of the show by singing "Hold My Heart" and a bewildered audience couldn't help but wonder where the show could go from here. This was no mere group show in a nightclub, this was an out-and-out rock and roll concert being sung by Broadway belters. This is the new Broadway, a Broadway where people get to be drama nerds and rock stars all at the same time. Thank Goodness, and no mistake. Mr. Krauss brought the house down before welcoming back Jessica Vosk and the rest of the cast (except for Misses Lohr and Kennedy) the bring it back up with another round of songs, each performance raising the bar for the next one. In an adversarial setting, this might feel like a game of one-upmanship, but no competition was this: this was a room filled with love and a healthy respect for each other. These artists are colleagues of the Broadway community, cheering one another to great heights in their work, bringing their A-Game, celebrating the music of an artist they revere, and entertaining the audience that celebrates them. It was a most enjoyable night of exquisite music, of exciting talent, and of camaraderie, one of the best I've seen, which is really saying a lot, trust me.
With a variety of dates from which to choose to see BROADWAY SINGS UNPLUGGED: Sara Bareilles, I'm so happy I chose October 21st. I don't remember why I chose this night - I think it was to see someone specific, but I don't remember. All I remember right now are Katie Boeck, Matt DeAngelis, Marty Gasper, Jason Gotay, Alexa Green, Joshua Stephen Kartes, Kyra Kennedy, Blaine Krauss, Patty Lohr, Corey Mach, and Jessica Vosk, the artists I was meant to see that night, and the ones whose names I will look for when deciding what future shows I want to see ... in a nightclub or on Broadway.
These are the names I want to remember, for they are worth remembering.
For more information on BROADWAY SINGS visit their Website
Photos by Stephen Mosher