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BWW Review: MARILU HENNER: MUSIC & MEMORIES! Is a Treat For the Heart & the Mind at 54 Below


Marilu Henner Returns to 54 Below

BWW Review: MARILU HENNER: MUSIC & MEMORIES! Is a Treat For the Heart & the Mind at 54 Below

How would you feel if you could remember every single day of your life? Not just the big moments like your wedding day or the birth of a child or the day you signed divorce papers. What if you could go through your closet and remember the date on which you purchased every sweater, blouse, or pair of shoes: what if you could remember what the weather was like on that day and what scent the salesgirl was wearing and what you had for lunch and where? What if you had recall of every moment of your life? Would you consider that a blessing or a curse?

For Marilu Henner, star of television, film, and stage, that is not a hypothetical question. She is one of about 100 people in the world who have a condition known as HSAM, Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory. It is the ability to remember all of your memories. The answer for Henner is simple. She considers it a gift. As an actress, she not only has an enviable ability to memorize and retain lines, she has a bank of valuable sense memories that is quite literally inexhaustible. And when putting together a show that recounts some of the high and low points of her life, Marilu Henner is an infallible expert.BWW Review: MARILU HENNER: MUSIC & MEMORIES! Is a Treat For the Heart & the Mind at 54 Below

That is the focus of her show, Marilu Henner: MUSIC & MEMORIES!, which returned this evening to 54 Below. She walked us through some of her favorite memories from her decades in show business. It would actually be more accurate to say she danced us through some of her favorite memories, for Ms. Henner is a performer almost constantly in motion. She has been dancing from the age of two. Her mother ran a dance studio in her hometown of Chicago for 20 years, and Henner is still in fit dancing condition. She is the author of two books about health.

She opened her show with a demonstration of her health and vigor, entering from the back of the house, crooning a particularly sultry version of Cole Porter's "Let Misbehave." She introduced her remarkable memory right away with a parody of Peggy Lee's "I'm a Woman" she called "HSAM." She's still got impressive moves. She talked about where those moves came from, telling stories about her family and their different dance styles in a dance medley of "Jimmy Mack," "Dancing in the Street," and "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me." She talked about how her dancing led to her first big break. A friend from high school wrote about the school they went to. Turns out that friend was Jim Jacobs and the show turned out to be Grease. Marilu Henner was the first person to sing "Freddy My Love," a moment she recreated for us. She, of course, recalled the date and the day of the week she auditioned for the national tour which she did with none other than Jeff Conaway and John Travolta.

BWW Review: MARILU HENNER: MUSIC & MEMORIES! Is a Treat For the Heart & the Mind at 54 Below She talked about her early days in New York, where she sang and danced her way through a great number of commercials. She had a Samsonite luggage commercial that only featured certain body parts. She used that as a cue to do a medley of songs featuring every part of her body. It was a very funny bit of patter that put her impressive memory to the test. This led into her recounting of how she moved to LA to do a film with Richard Gere and ending up staying because she got the role that made her a household name, Elaine Nardo on the sitcom Taxi. She told us there was one episode in which she had a musical number (she remembered the date it aired.) However, the episode was running long and her number got cut before the filming. But tonight she got to sing it, the Motown classic "My Guy" which she changed to "My Guys" which was accompanied by a film of clips from Taxi featuring her male castmates. The number was dedicated to the late Jeff Conaway and Andy Kaufman.

She sang "Desperado," which she dedicated to her first husband, actor Frederic Forrest. She shared that the early deaths of her parents sent her down the path of health and fitness. She spelled out the depth of her devotion in a witty parody of "Tradition" from Fiddler on the Roof, entitled "Nutrition." She then told us about her favorite role she's ever played, that of mom. She talked about the birth of her two sons with her second husband, director Robert Lieberman. She recalled the dates and times her two sons, Nicholas and Joseph were born in a medley of "Nick of Time" and "Happiness Is Just a Thing Called Joe." Moving from that beautiful experience, she talked about her experience on Dancing With the Stars, where she did nine episodes with Derek Hough. She told us about that journey with Kander & Ebbs's song, "Pain."

BWW Review: MARILU HENNER: MUSIC & MEMORIES! Is a Treat For the Heart & the Mind at 54 Below

She told us about her third (and current) husband, Michael Brown, and his struggle with and remission from cancer, as well as the book they wrote together about the holistic regimen they used to bring him back to health. She chose Sting's beautiful "Fields of Gold" to celebrate their 18 cancer-free years. Ms. Henner closed her great show with a song from her wonderful but short-lived musical, Gettin' the Band Back Together, "WWJPD (What Would Joe Perry Do?) It was a rocking end to a really great show.

Marilu Henner was supported by a terrific band led by musical director, Michael Orland. Marc Schmeid on bass, Damian Bassman on guitar, and Matt Hinkley on drums did amazing work. The band did double duty in Ms. Henner's exciting finale. She brought back her thrilling performance as Chicago's Roxie Hart, in which she replaced Ann Reinking. She brought the house down with "Roxie" in which the band sang the part of her "whole bunch of boys." Marilu Henner is extraordinary. Not just for her remarkable gift of memory, but for her enduring gifts as an entertainer. And though none of us in the audience has HSAM, her performance tonight is one date we will remember.

BWW Review: MARILU HENNER: MUSIC & MEMORIES! Is a Treat For the Heart & the Mind at 54 Below

To learn more about Marilu Henner follow her @therealmarilu on Instagram or @TheRealMarilu on Twitter. For more great acts at 54 Below, go to For information about Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM), check out

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