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BWW Review: JEANNA DE WAAL Reigns Supreme In Solo Show at Feinstein's/54 Below

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Fresh off the heels of the demise of Diana, Jeanna de Waal gets back up onto the stage with resounding success.

BWW Review: JEANNA DE WAAL Reigns Supreme In Solo Show at Feinstein's/54 Below

It has been said that one should keep a sense of humor, especially about oneself, that it is a strength beyond all measure. On Monday night Jeanna de Waal proved that she does, indeed, have a sense of humor, for the Broadway veteran, late of the ill-fated DIANA, THE MUSICAL, spent much of her onstage time at 54 Below making fun of herself and her experience with the show that is already being called infamous. Throughout this solo show debut in Broadway's Living room, it was more than clear that Ms. de Waal is a strong woman, a funny lady, and Badass Broadway Belter. With the Feinstein's basement filled with DiFanas, friends, and family, Jeanna hit this one right out of the park, rendering the evening a bit of a shame, since it was a one-night affair that included two back-to-back performances and one live stream event.

On December 19th Diana, The Musical closed on Broadway. Sometime within the next week to ten days, this writer noticed that the Jeanna de Waal show (it's pronounced Jean-uh, by the way) appeared on the Feinstein's/54 Below calendar, where it had not been before. That was fast. The press seats for the show were made immediately, and then came two weeks of anticipation and excitement to see the leading lady that had been front and center for this year's Carrie. The world has watched while Diana started previews, shut down for COVID, filmed for Netflix, debuted on Netflix, got savaged online, opened on Broadway, and closed on Broadway. The entire journey made Jeanna de Waal a part of Broadway legend. People still talk about the original production of Carrie, to this day; people will talk about Diana, The Musical, and about Jeanna de Waal for years to come. People will not, however, just talk about Jeanna de Waal and Diana - people will talk about how Jeanna de Waal rose from the ashes of a legendary Broadway flop, which is exactly what she is going to do. And she has everything it takes to do it. It was a brilliant calculation, putting the Broadway star on the nightclub stage so soon after the closing of her show. It was also brilliant marketing, using a photo of de Waal in her Diana drag to publicize the show. It is probably unlikely that the general public at large knows that, underneath the proper Diana wig, there lives a sassy and sexy brunette. Had 54BWW Review: JEANNA DE WAAL Reigns Supreme In Solo Show at Feinstein's/54 Below Below chosen to promote the club act with one of Ms. de Waal's professional headshots, they might have sold some tickets, but by capitalizing on the Diana legend, they insured themselves a healthy attendance. As things were, playing to a full house at 54 Below must have been a solid salve for the singing actress - her show certainly was a tonic to all those in attendance.

BWW Review: JEANNA DE WAAL Reigns Supreme In Solo Show at Feinstein's/54 Below

With a program made up of a handful of songs from Diana, several stories about the process, the pandemic, and the pitfalls, and a few musical surprises along the way, Ms. de Waal was absolutely endearing and completely entertaining. Getting her Las Vegas on with two divine back-up dancers, some light "skit" work, and specialty lyrics to a famous Kander & Ebb tune, Jeanna set the tone, right out of the gate, by letting the audience know that the name on everybody's lips was going to be Diana, The Musical. What followed was some frank and funny discussion about what life is like right now, where she sees herself in the future of show business, and whether or not she escaped from the Longacre Theater with some mementos of the show (spoiler: she did). The star of the play inspired, often, the throwing back of heads and the shouts of gleeful laughter with casually perfect timing of jokes at her own expense - jokes that, while focused on the failures of Diana, never savored of bitterness or regret. Nothing about Ms. de Waal's time on the stage at 54 Below leaned into the negative, only into gratitude and an honest sense of reality about what it is to be an artist and to put one's artwork in front of the world, baring one's soul for judgment, whatever that judgment may be. It was a refreshing point of view from an artist who, very well, could have been bitter; many other artists in the same position have come before Jeanna without grasping the graciousness that she placed, so beautifully, on display.

And the singing - heavens to Betsy, the singing.

BWW Review: JEANNA DE WAAL Reigns Supreme In Solo Show at Feinstein's/54 Below With several impressive credits on her CV, it can be taken for granted that Jeanna de Waal has the vocal skills required to make it in musical theater, but it is always a surprise getting to sit in a nightclub and hear something so pretty as Jeanna de Waal singing "As I Love You" (from Diana) or so powerful as her spin on the Streisand arrangement of "My Man" - it is authentically enough to make a person cry. Vocally, de Waal could place not one foot wrong in this solo club act and, frankly, the structure of the show was meticulously arranged as well, with the application of songs from Hadestown and Company to the events of her life being cleverly orchestrated and executed. It was, in fact, a seamless night of cabaret entertainment... all thirty-nine minutes of it. And that is too little. Every club act should clock in at, at least, fifty minutes, preferably sixty - at least. Ms. de Waal's show was a scant (rounding up) forty minutes which is (especially at 54 Below prices) too little. However... this writer cannot bring himself to ding de Waal for the brevity of her program. There are no complaints here. There is every chance in the world that this show was a last-minute outing, put on the books when Diana shuttered so suddenly, and put together in three weeks time - and even with only three weeks between one closing and one opening, Jeanna de Waal put together a fully realized nightclub act. There was singing, dancing, choreography, backup dancers, anecdotes, and specialty material and NOT ONE music stand, tablet, cheat sheet, iPhone, or lyric sheet in sight. It's kind of hard to argue with a performance that stays professional and personal the entire time it's on. So this writer isn't going to argue with the Jeanna de Waal show from Monday night, only make a wish for an additional fifteen minutes the next time it plays. Because I'm going to be there - that's how good it was. That's how enjoyable Jeanna is, and how entertaining she is, as a nightclub performer - good enough for repeat visits to the same show, and that's saying something.

Now, if everyone will excuse me, I'm going to call up Diana, The Musical on Netflix. I didn't get to see it on Broadway and, now, I am ready to watch it any old time, just to see Jeanna de Waal in action.

BWW Review: JEANNA DE WAAL Reigns Supreme In Solo Show at Feinstein's/54 Below

The Jeanna de Waal Show band and company are Musical Director Haley Bennett on piano and percussion, Charlie Savage on piano, Nathan Lucrezio and Anthony Murphy singing and dancing with Jeanna de Waal.

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

Visit the Jeanna de Waal Instagram page HERE.

Jeanna de Waal gets a five out of five microphones rating for performing her entire show without the use of a lyric sheet, tablet, or music stand.

BWW Review: JEANNA DE WAAL Reigns Supreme In Solo Show at Feinstein's/54 Below BWW Review: JEANNA DE WAAL Reigns Supreme In Solo Show at Feinstein's/54 Below

BWW Review: JEANNA DE WAAL Reigns Supreme In Solo Show at Feinstein's/54 Below BWW Review: JEANNA DE WAAL Reigns Supreme In Solo Show at Feinstein's/54 Below BWW Review: JEANNA DE WAAL Reigns Supreme In Solo Show at Feinstein's/54 Below
BWW Review: JEANNA DE WAAL Reigns Supreme In Solo Show at Feinstein's/54 Below
BWW Review: JEANNA DE WAAL Reigns Supreme In Solo Show at Feinstein's/54 Below BWW Review: JEANNA DE WAAL Reigns Supreme In Solo Show at Feinstein's/54 Below BWW Review: JEANNA DE WAAL Reigns Supreme In Solo Show at Feinstein's/54 Below BWW Review: JEANNA DE WAAL Reigns Supreme In Solo Show at Feinstein's/54 Below BWW Review: JEANNA DE WAAL Reigns Supreme In Solo Show at Feinstein's/54 Below BWW Review: JEANNA DE WAAL Reigns Supreme In Solo Show at Feinstein's/54 Below BWW Review: JEANNA DE WAAL Reigns Supreme In Solo Show at Feinstein's/54 Below BWW Review: JEANNA DE WAAL Reigns Supreme In Solo Show at Feinstein's/54 Below BWW Review: JEANNA DE WAAL Reigns Supreme In Solo Show at Feinstein's/54 Below
BWW Review: JEANNA DE WAAL Reigns Supreme In Solo Show at Feinstein's/54 Below

BWW Review: JEANNA DE WAAL Reigns Supreme In Solo Show at Feinstein's/54 Below

Performance photos by Stephen Mosher


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