BWW Review: MUSIC OF THE KNIGHTS Scores at 54 Below
Cabaret nightclubs around the city offer a lot more than solo shows of your favorite singers getting up on stage and doing their thing, and it is worth investigating the other options available to the show-going community. Oftentimes a club's calendar will show a graphic design with a title of a show about which potential audiences know nothing, but if those potential audience members take out a moment to click on the graphic, they might discover that something wonderful awaits them. That was definitely the case with Music of the Knights, which played Feinstein's/54 Below on August 28th.
Music of the Knights is a group show that tours around the world, but that played for one night at 54 Below to a huge crowd of appreciative people who ranged in age from the very old to the very young, because the music that was being presented is music that is universal and universally loved, for Music of the Knights celebrates Sir Elton John, Sir Paul McCartney, and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. The singers sharing their talents are not household names, but that must not diminish their gifts, which are considerable, indeed the audience cared about nothing more than the glorious music these exceptional artists lavished upon them, sitting at their tables, clapping along, eyes closed, mouthing along, swaying back and forth, in a reverie that can only be created by the feelings and memories that flood the mind and the heart when a song from your past shares the space that you occupy.
Hosted by Scott Coulter, one of the best emcees anyone is likely to see on any stage anywhere, the evening's entertainment flew by so fast that the audience was nearly bereft at the night's close. Until that moment came, though, they were treated to six Elton John songs, five numbers by Lord Lloyd Webber, and four by Sir Paul, and trust me when I say this, it would be hard to find ten singers (that figure includes their "Secret Weapon", musical director John Boswell) gathered together in one room with more skills. Not one of these singing actors would fail to impress a panel of judges on one of those television talent shows, and it was incredibly easy to see why, with exceptionally expressive Fay Ann Lee's "I Don't Know How to Love Him" or powerhouse Kelli Rabke's "Joseph/Dreamcoat" number as proof of power. Dividing time between the three Knights, Coulter regaled all with facts, tidbits, trivia, making the process of learning about them fun and entertaining (never once did it feel like a lecture), and always with accolades, he introduced his cohorts in the show, for the symphonic sampling of their styles.
As couples lay in one another's arms, Brian Wilson performed "Your Song" with a voice that, if Elton or Egerton are not available, is the natural voice to choose, so rich with melodic empathy was it. Those same couples sprung from their embrace to rock out with a marvelous Lorinda Lisitza whose "Maybe I'm Amazed" was more than amazing, it was freaking incredible. Coulter called Blaine Krauss Pop-tastic, an accurate description of the teen idol worthy singer who excelled with a crowd-pleasing "Crocodile Rock" that featured some fancy footwork and background vocals by Coulter, Lisitza, Rabke and Boswell, not forgetting Matt Scharfglass on bass and Danny Mallon on drums. Audience members who did not previously know Carole J. Bufford surely googled her when they got home to find out where she will be singing next because the fascinating and fabulous diva brought all the drama for which she is loved to a "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" that would have made Sir Elton proud. Justin Talkington reminded all who have written off "The Music of the Night" that it is easy to forget what a rangey and difficult song it is to sing, until you have a singer of Talkington's caliber to remind you, and a mesmerizing Jessica Hendy left a hypnotized audience wiping away tears with the master class that is her performance of "Memory". Mr. Coulter made a plea to the audience for a Ricola so that he could prepare his voice for some heavy-duty singing, and the lozenge company needs him as a spokesperson because when he teamed his perfectly controlled, astoundingly clear voice up with rock star Blaine Krauss for "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" it lead to a standing ovation that nearly did not end.
For this writer, and devotee of McCartney, particular highlights were Boswell, Lisitza, Coulter and Hendy bringing the house down with "Live and Let Die", as well as Coulter, Hendy, and Lisitza on a most original and jaw-dropping arrangement of the most covered song in music history "Yesterday", but the real thrill for everyone at 54 Below came from Sir Elton, when the cast took the stage for a Lion King Medley that left every person simultaneously smiling and in tears. This was one of those special moments in a nightclub that people remember, indeed, one of those special shows in a nightclub, that people remember, making it a joy to go out on a school night because, as these last days of summer draw to a close, we must make the most of our time off, and this was definitely time off very well spent.
Learn more about Music of the Knights at the Spot On Entertainment Website