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BWW Review: JASON ROBERT BROWN at Feinstein's/54 Below Is Essential Fare For Concert-goers

There's a reason why the composer-lyricist's club acts always sell out, as one writer learned this week.

BWW Review: JASON ROBERT BROWN at Feinstein's/54 Below Is Essential Fare For Concert-goers

I remember when I was in college studying theater and I heard somebody say, rather matter-of-factly, that musical theater composers should never sing their own songs because they are never as good as the singers who sing them on stage. I was young and didn't understand the affront that is a sweeping generalization, I didn't get what an offensive comment that was, and I hadn't, yet, learned how to argue a point without it turning into an argument. If someone were to make an observation like that to me now, it would be my pleasure to, calmly and pleasantly, point them in the direction of Amanda Green, Joe Iconis, and any other number of Broadway composer/lyricists who do musical theater double-duty by performing, in much the same way that Comden and Green did during their heyday. And although it had reached my attention that Jason Robert Brown plays out around town on a regular basis, my schedule and his never worked to my advantage... until this week, when I was heard to utter an audible sigh of relief for finally (underline it: finally) coming to the party and learning what I had been missing.

BWW Review: JASON ROBERT BROWN at Feinstein's/54 Below Is Essential Fare For Concert-goers As a musical theater writer, Jason Robert Brown has achieved some pretty heady stuff, writing musical plays that have earned him legions of fans and loads of respect. The Tony Award recipient could busy himself presenting a new musical on Broadway with every new theatrical season and the world would be a happier, better, more artistically fulfilled place. But even if that were his primary focus in life, please, let there never be a time that he stops performing himself, because his work as an entertainer also makes the world a happier, better, more artistically fulfilled place. The gentleman is dope. He is a delight. He is a downright pleasure to watch and to listen to. Performing songs of his own creation alongside a band that the 54 Below website accurately describes as "ferocious," Jason Robert Brown is a showman. He isn't a showman in the way that Liberace was, for Monday night he was rather modestly dressed and not at all flamboyant, and he isn't a showman in the same vein as Jerry Lee Lewis because no piano benches were kicked over and no feet touched the keyboards. Nevertheless, when Mr. Brown expresses himself with extemporaneous chit chat, he is fully invested in reaching out to his audience, when his fingers run over the keys the result is a vortex of electrifying sound, and when he sings the sentences he has constructed in the name of storytelling, the emotions represented are raw, honest, and personal on a level that might surprise a person expecting something a bit more reserved from a man in a button-down and blazer. With the foundation created by his on-stage comfort and pleasing personality, the presence of a voice that is both attractive and well-trained makes Mr. Brown into a nightclub performer of significant note, as evidenced by compelling performances of the bluesy "The Shed Shack" and the introspective "All Things In Time" (this reporter's favorite moment of the night). This concert experience is one of the times that illustrates the philosophy that a songwriter is, indeed, the greatest interpreter of their own work, be it ballad, comedy number, or out-and-out rock and roll. It is an evening of pure pleasure, plain and simple, during which the audience gets the musical facts directly from the horse's mouth (as the saying goes), an evening that works perfectly with or without the welcoming of additional performers.

BWW Review: JASON ROBERT BROWN at Feinstein's/54 Below Is Essential Fare For Concert-goers As it happens, for his concert this week, Mr. Brown invited Rachel Tucker, she of Wicked fame, and two previous 54 Below solo shows. Ms. Tucker took a night off from her Come From Away schedule to join JRB on four numbers more suited to her aesthetic than his (though it might be interesting to hear Brown sing "Another Life" at some point) and the lady brought a special quality to the program, particularly with "Mary Mallon," a song that Mr. Brown has performed in previous concerts with what he suggests is a less-than-qualified Irish accent - not an issue for the Irish-born former Elphaba. Ms. Tucker's inclusion in the evening was both exciting and heartwarming, for her talents as a musical storyteller are considerable, and her voice, beyond beautiful. Before the first of her four numbers, the singing actress did remark on the fact that she would need some lyric sheets because JRB's lyrics can tend to overwhelm... and regular Broadway World Cabaret readers know about the general distaste I have for the reading of lyrics during a nightclub act. Surprisingly, I am satisfied giving Rachel Tucker a free pass on this one because she's right: Jason Robert Brown lyrics are intimidating, especially when you're an actor giving up their night off from a Broadway show to perform four Brown songs in a one-off concert. Also, Ms. Tucker's performances of the three songs that required occasional glances at the music stand to her right did not suffer, greatly, from the distraction, although when the Broadway alum performed "You Don't Know This Man" from memory, the quality of the storytelling increased exponentially. There is no benefit in judging Ms. Tucker harshly for being so human as to need a little help with some Jason Robert Brown lyrics... especially when Brown, himself, had a few moments of humanity, moments that made the night even better, still.

BWW Review: JASON ROBERT BROWN at Feinstein's/54 Below Is Essential Fare For Concert-goers During the concert, there were little mishaps that Mr. Brown and the band had to correct in real-time. The thrill of watching musical proficients at their most adept is unbeatable. With the Maestro calling out to them to go back to a certain measure or perhaps urging them to vamp while he found himself, the audience was given an opportunity to observe the shorthand that the artists share, in action. Having Jason Robert Brown make fun of himself for forgetting his own lyrics before pulling the charts off the piano to ask a patron in the front row if they can read the tiny font just reminds the audience that, although a genius, he is also a man. He's just a man who can do anything, including share his humanity, his personality, his humor, and his gratitude, for Mr. Brown was effusive and straightforward with his praise and appreciation for his band, one of the best this writer has ever heard. The entire experience of seeing Brown and co. in action was a happy one that has, at long last, made clear to this writer the popularity of his concerts and the devotion of the fans who make those concerts sellouts. I only wish I could go back in time and tell that person who insisted upon the performance limitations of musical theater writers just how wrong they were because this musical theater writer is one of the best performers currently selling out their shows. I can't wait for the next one.

The Jason Robert Brown band is made up of exceptional Jamie Eblen, superb Lisette Santiago, magnificent Randy Landau, outstanding Gary Sieger, and terrific Todd Reynolds. They were, to put it mildly, out of this world.

Find great shows to see at the 54 Below website HERE.

THIS is the Jason Robert Brown website.

Visit the Rachel Tucker website HERE.

BWW Review: JASON ROBERT BROWN at Feinstein's/54 Below Is Essential Fare For Concert-goers

BWW Review: JASON ROBERT BROWN at Feinstein's/54 Below Is Essential Fare For Concert-goers BWW Review: JASON ROBERT BROWN at Feinstein's/54 Below Is Essential Fare For Concert-goers BWW Review: JASON ROBERT BROWN at Feinstein's/54 Below Is Essential Fare For Concert-goers BWW Review: JASON ROBERT BROWN at Feinstein's/54 Below Is Essential Fare For Concert-goers BWW Review: JASON ROBERT BROWN at Feinstein's/54 Below Is Essential Fare For Concert-goers BWW Review: JASON ROBERT BROWN at Feinstein's/54 Below Is Essential Fare For Concert-goers BWW Review: JASON ROBERT BROWN at Feinstein's/54 Below Is Essential Fare For Concert-goers

BWW Review: JASON ROBERT BROWN at Feinstein's/54 Below Is Essential Fare For Concert-goers

BWW Review: JASON ROBERT BROWN at Feinstein's/54 Below Is Essential Fare For Concert-goers BWW Review: JASON ROBERT BROWN at Feinstein's/54 Below Is Essential Fare For Concert-goers BWW Review: JASON ROBERT BROWN at Feinstein's/54 Below Is Essential Fare For Concert-goers BWW Review: JASON ROBERT BROWN at Feinstein's/54 Below Is Essential Fare For Concert-goers BWW Review: JASON ROBERT BROWN at Feinstein's/54 Below Is Essential Fare For Concert-goers BWW Review: JASON ROBERT BROWN at Feinstein's/54 Below Is Essential Fare For Concert-goers BWW Review: JASON ROBERT BROWN at Feinstein's/54 Below Is Essential Fare For Concert-goers BWW Review: JASON ROBERT BROWN at Feinstein's/54 Below Is Essential Fare For Concert-goers BWW Review: JASON ROBERT BROWN at Feinstein's/54 Below Is Essential Fare For Concert-goers BWW Review: JASON ROBERT BROWN at Feinstein's/54 Below Is Essential Fare For Concert-goers

Photos by Stephen Mosher


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From This Author - Stephen Mosher