BWW Review: ONCE MORE WITH FEELING: BROADWAY SLAYS BUFFY at Feinstein's/54 Below

BWW Review: ONCE MORE WITH FEELING: BROADWAY SLAYS BUFFY at Feinstein's/54 BelowThe first time I watched Buffy, I was about six-years-old. I distinctly remember being upset that Buffy had to miss out on a school dance (which was actually just a regular night at The Bronze) to fight the Big Bad of the week. Little did I know then how massively this little show that could would impact my life several years later - no one really knew.

Who would have guessed that this '90s show - built from the ruins of a cheesy movie that flopped - would inspire a generation of passionate nerds that still flock together 20 years later.

Feinstein's/54 Below threw two Buffy Broadway bashes to honor the show's legacy. Buffy's musical episode, "Once More With Feeling" achieved what no other show had done before - turning an episode of TV into a full-stop hit musical. Many shows have tried to recreate the success of this iconic episode and none have reached the level of stellar storytelling, original music, and a seamless premise that was woven into the episode to make spontaneously bursting into song work for a paranormal drama.

Going into the 54 Below performance, I didn't know what to expect. It would have been easy for someone to have taken this opportunity to cash out on beloved nerd culture, but from the minute the Buffy intro started playing, I could tell that the people involved cared about the source material.

The atmosphere of the show was relaxed with minimal costumes and was mostly unchoreographed save for a few numbers like "I'll Never Tell" and "I'm Under Your Spell." The performances weren't akin to the flashy production of a Broadway show, but that almost worked in its favor. It felt like a group of talented performers jamming out to something they love, which makes it more intriguing for a group of fans getting together to watch something they love.

In-between the numbers, the narrator threw in some cheeky commentary - the most entertaining moments being when he made fun of Dawn (Buffy's sister who randomly appeared in the show in the fifth season). Dawn's appearance is the show's biggest "jump the shark" moment and most Buffy fans find her obnoxious and tiring. The fact that her daftness was upped to eleven definitely earned the most laughs throughout the night - especially when she went to sing her solo song, got out one note, and walked off the stage. Those sort of inside Buffy jokes made the audience feel like they were a part of the production and in on the joke.

The audience was also delighted at the inclusion of the short throwaway scenes from around town that were featured in the episode like the mustard song and the woman who tries to flirt her way out of a parking ticket through song. These might seem like throwaway scenes to a casual onlooker, but they are fan favorite scenes in their absurdity.

It's hard to pick the most showstopping number, but "I'll Never Tell" and "What You Feel" are definitely top contenders. Sam Underwood had Xander's cadence down to a T and Emily Borromeo did a superb job belting the notes and landing Anya's moderately bizarre personality.

Prior to the show, my friend Billy and I were daydreaming about how amazing it would be to see Jeremy Jordan and Ashley Spencer take on the iconic roles, but I definitely wasn't disappointed with Borromeo and Underwood. (JJ, if you're somehow reading this, here's an official request for your next gig. Powers That Be, please make it happen.)

Darius Wright, dare I say it, slayed in his role as Sweet. Getting that low timbre right is no easy task, and he reached it in spades. Equally, Taylor Iman Jones brought down the house as Buffy, and it was incredibly refreshing to see a significant amount of diversity in the show. There's little to no racial representation in Buffy, which is one of its biggest flaws. You know there's an issue when there are more brightly colored demons in a show than there are actual races that aren't white.

Broadway Slays Buffy was exactly the show I never knew I needed. It wasn't necessarily Broadway-caliber production value, but it was clearly a talented labor of love meant to honor the original, and nothing could be more Buffy than that. I lit a candle today and couldn't stop singing "Walk Through the Fire," so it's safe to say I was enamored with the show. If I hadn't seen the second performance, I would have definitely wanted to see it once more (with feeling).

Photo Credit: Xandra Harbet

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