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BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below

An inter-generational group of strong, supportive women is a thing of beauty.

BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below

It may not have been designed to be a celebration of womanhood, but that is what the show MUTUAL ADMIRATION turned out to be, when it played Feinstein's/54 Below on May 1st. This duo show starring show biz veteran Charlotte (Charlo) Crossley and Ava Nicole Frances was, first, created to showcase two women with extraordinary talents and great respect (and, clearly, love) for each other. The more experienced Crossley met the fledgling Frances at a concert and the two saw something in each other that they felt could translate into a strong friendship and a great sister act (for lack of a better description) and, with the help of director Frank Silletti, they put together a show that played the West Coast and even got a live recording. Happy, satisfied, and excited by this first venture, the trio booked the evening onto the East Coast, to 54 Below, and then saw their dreams put on hold for a couple of years. A lot happened in those two years. The nature of the industry changed, Washington saw a Changing of the Guard, the Junior member of the team clocked enough years and experience to, officially, be considered an adult, and both ladies decided to each invite one close female friend into their program. The result was an evening of entertainment that doesn't come along every day.

Leave it to the women.

BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below In its original incarnation (which can be found on all digital platforms), Mutual Admiration was a fun and frothy lineup of songs that the teenage Ms. Frances loved to sing with her youthful optimism and excited exuberance, and that the veteran Ms. Crossley had sung and, frankly, had lived. In this completely new version of the show, the attitudes have changed to reflect their current lives. Frances will, soon, be a Freshman at NYU and Crossley has returned to New York, where her career began more than a couple of decades ago. These changes signify rites of passage, and so their show and their material had to evolve into a reflection of who they are now, and their guests artists did the same because their first guest artist, Ula Hedwig is a longtime friend of Crossley's, from a past when Charlo worked as one of Bette Midler's Harlettes, and their second guest, Kate Loprest, is a teacher to Ava from the very recent past. By inviting the two impressive actresses to the stage, they formed a Women's Coalition demonstrating the importance of girlfriends and mentors, especially intergenerationally.

BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below Beginning their program by introducing themselves to their audience with their title number, Charlo turned the stage over to Ava for a solo set lasting six songs before relinquishing the stage to Ms. Crossley for her own solo set. Reunited for some duo time, the pair was then joined by Hedwig for some diva-training, Bette Midler style; then came some more duo action, and then a Hairspray-infused segment featuring Ms. Loprest, and, then, finally, the all-important finale. It was like a cabaret clown car: just when you thought they couldn't squeeze one more guest, one more number, one more speech, one more curtain call into the evening, there was more to come. Usually, this would be frustrating to anyone who spends enough time in a club to know that a proper club act should ring down the curtain somewhere between sixty and seventy minutes, not at ninety-six. But when the quality of entertainment is this good, it becomes difficult to grumble about bladder control or overpaying the babysitter or an early alarm clock. So. No grumbling.

Because the quality of entertainment was not compromised, not at any time.

BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below Ava Nicole Frances is, clearly, the future of the business. It's not something she has to shoulder all on her own because there are many young people regularly coming into the business that promise its continued good success. But Ava Nicole is special, and her three co-stars (and the appreciative audience) weren't the only ones aware of it on Sunday night. There were strangers in the audience (and one cabaret journalist) who could be seen slack-jawed and shaking their heads in disbelief. Everyone knew they were watching something special and important happening in real-time. With Old Hollywood movie-star beauty, proper acting interpretive skills, and a voice one might, easily, expect to find in a person labeled a phenom, Ava Frances was nothing less than breathtaking, as she effusively talked about her youth, her passion, and the impending bright future that is mere moments away. Every musical number was epic in her hands, and although there is an obvious proclivity toward ballads (a tendency that needs to be adjusted for future shows), her up-tempo and belt action does not suffer from underdevelopment. Her "NYC"/"All I Need Is One Good Break" mash-up was the stuff of musical theater dreams... but, then, so was her take on the lovely Kander & Ebb ballad "First You Dream" - an appropriate choice for a young woman whose head is filled with dreams that she is about to tackle in every attempt at making them a reality. And the audience at 54 Below wants to see her make them a reality - the good will from the adoring crowd was a true sight to behold; every actor standing on a stage should get to experience such love from an audience. This was a great graduation/coming out party for the young actress.

BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below Charlotte Crossley isn't having a coming out party - she is having a coming home party. And it was spectacular. The singing actress who started her career in New York delivered for the crowd a setlist made up of songs she has sung in shows, songs that mirror her own life experiences, and one especially effective blues-y tribute to The Divine Miss M - and the fans were in the house for it. Whether they were fans from afar or devoted friends, the members of the audience who were there for Charlo let it be known through some rowdy and raucous behavior that one might, more readily, expect at a rock concert... but Charlo is kind of a musical theater rock goddess, and she did play all those shows with Bette, so the atmosphere was certainly appropriate, and it certainly was fun watching Ms. Crossley react to the crowd in real time. Whether performing Kander & Ebb ("When You're Good to Mama") or The Four Seasons ("You're Just Too Good to Be True"), whether making light of dating during the times of technology or waxing wistful about the long relationship that she has had with show business, the Crossley magic that has given her that longevity was as abundant as the love filling the basement for both she, her young protege, and that which they represent together.

BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below There is something so special, so important, so resonant about seeing an "Odd Couple" like this in action. Every young person needs (and hopefully wants) guidance, and every older (to be direct) person wants to share their life lessons, passing experience down so that it can do some good. Ava and Charlo have that sort of relationship as women and as artists, and it shows, especially during an obligatory performance of the song that (probably) best represents that kind of mentorship, the famed "You're Just In Love" duet from Call Me Madam. Also obligatory, though (and equally important to an evening of diva antics) is the ubiquitous "Happy Days/Get Happy" mash-up, which Charlo and Ava Nicole hit out of the park with the ease of an ice cream dipper holding a hot scooper. As duet partners go, the senior and junior divas are well-matched and marvelous, and whether performing together or in their individual solos, there was no denying that their musical storytelling was beyond reproach - so much so that there was never any need to make their well-crafted duo show into a group show, especially with time being a consideration. But the audience was, ultimately, very lucky that the BFFs and director Silletti made the choice to invite Misses Loprest and Hedwig to the party because both segments featuring the Broadway actresses provided rich reward in both the entertainment and humanity columns. Hedwig and Loprest are two hilarious comediennes possessing of powerful singing voices and unchartable stage presence, and Ava Nicole was the perfect focal point for their mutual sections of the show. While Charlo and Ula inducted Ava into the Harlettes with some brassy and bawdy belting and comedy, Kate and Charlo led the way in a stupendous Hairspray medley because all three women have played in the famed musical. Both guest artist chapters of Mutual Admiration added inarguable value to the program, especially when all four women joined forces for an incredible performance of "I Know Where I've Been." Seeing these four women of varying demographics nurture one another, support each other, make themselves laugh, and stand strong together, in all their various relationships - Ava and Charlo, Charlo and Ula, Kate and Ava, Charlo and Kate, all four together - was a vision to be cherished and to be remembered. It changed what was, once, a charming show into an important one.

BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below

BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below

Mutual Admiration was a night that won't be repeated, even if the women should come together in future performances. This particular night was a rite of passage. Ava is off to college (a beautiful thing), and the world will keep changing, and who knows where everyone will, next, land? Nobody. That's why it's important to live for today. And, for this one day, a 54 Below audience got to be a part of the admiration, got to see four strong and powerful women in action, got to honor the women who have walked the show business path with warranted attention that must be paid, and got to get in on the ground floor of something wonderful: the future of Ava Nicole Frances - one that will be worth watching: the woman and her future.

The amazing MUTUAL ADMIRATION Band was:

Michael Collum: musical director and piano.
Steve Canino: bass
Jon Berger: drums

Find great shows to see on the Feinstein's/54 Below website HERE.

Charlo Crossley is on Instagram HERE.

Visit the Ava Nicole Frances website HERE.

THIS is the Kate Loprest website.

BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below

BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below

BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below

BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below
BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below

BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below

BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below

BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below

BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below

BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below BWW Review: Charlotte Crossley & Ava Nicole Frances Present Empowered Women in MUTUAL ADMIRATION at 54 Below

Photos by Stephen Mosher


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From This Author - Stephen Mosher