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Review: RACHEL HANDMAN AND KEVE WILSON: BROADWAY MUSICIANS PLAY MUSIC FROM AROUND THE WORLD Enchants at 54 Below

Rachel Handman and Keve Wilson Make Instrumental Magic

Review: RACHEL HANDMAN AND KEVE WILSON: BROADWAY MUSICIANS PLAY MUSIC FROM AROUND THE WORLD Enchants at 54 Below

Cabaret prides itself on being an art form with no real rules: a grab bag that welcomes all styles, forms, and disciplines. Once in a great while, it lives up to that billing. Feinstein's 54 Below is the premier cabaret room in New York City, where great singers from Broadway sing for a somewhat smaller crowd accompanied by fine musicians. But not tonight. Tonight the fine musicians took center stage. RACHEL HANDMAN & Keve Wilson: BROADWAY MUSICIANS PLAY MUSIC FROM AROUND THE WORLD was scheduled to open at 54 Below on May 20, 2020. In fact, some members of the audience have been holding tickets for 16 months.

Tonight the wait was over. It's a very rare thing for 54 Below to present an evening of strictly instrumental music. But violinist Rachel Handman and oboist Keve Wilson are not ordinary musicians. They have been friends since childhood, growing up in the same neighborhood upstate. Handman's mother was Keve Wilson's piano teacher. They've been together ever since, occasionally even sharing a Broadway pit. At the time of the shutdown, Handman was playing West Side Story and Wilson was playing Company. This is the fourth time they've graced the stage of 54 Below. However, this time their band has expanded. Together with guitarist Hidayat Honari, bassist Marc Schmied, and drummer Damien Bassman, Handman and Wilson delighted a rapt audience.

Review: RACHEL HANDMAN AND KEVE WILSON: BROADWAY MUSICIANS PLAY MUSIC FROM AROUND THE WORLD Enchants at 54 Below

Both women are virtuoso players. Whether she's playing legato passages or sprightly pizzicati, Rachel Handman plays a mean fiddle. Keve Wilson is equally bombastic and possesses a remarkably warm tone. The oboe is a notoriously finicky instrument, but she is masterful in all registers. Broadway is very lucky to have these two magnificent players in their midst.

They opened the night with "The Call to Dance" a rollicking reel by Leahy & the Chieftains. They followed with "Only You." I was very moved by "Deep Peace" which is based on a Celtic poem, which they paired with Orleans' pop hit "Dance With Me." They demonstrated some authentic Polish flavor with "Vankarim Polska" and brought some Middle Eastern flair to "Dreaming of the Exotic Cafe." They returned to traditional fiddle music with "Redheaded Girl" and "Cherokee Shuffle." Then they turned to South America for "La Partida." They combined the Celtic ballad "The Parting Glass" with the 21st-century tone poem "Rain." This piece was a particularly sensitive and beautiful duet.

The evening wasn't totally without singing. John Michael Dias (Jersey Boys, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical) was tonight's special guest. He sang a lovely arrangement of "Everybody's Talking" combined with Billy Joel's "You're My Home." Later, he returned to sing a Carole King song he never got to sing in Beautiful, "So Far Away. " Mr. Dias has a glorious, soaring tenor voice.

Review: RACHEL HANDMAN AND KEVE WILSON: BROADWAY MUSICIANS PLAY MUSIC FROM AROUND THE WORLD Enchants at 54 Below

Handman and Wilson turned to their classical music roots, playing the entire 6 minutes of Vittorio Monti's "Csárdás." Everyone in the band got an amazing solo in this showstopper. To end the show, John Michael Dias returned to the stage and lead the whole company in an audience sing-along of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time." Rachel Handman and Keve Wilson got a very well-deserved standing ovation. The next time I'm at a Broadway show, I will not take the orchestra for granted.

Review: RACHEL HANDMAN AND KEVE WILSON: BROADWAY MUSICIANS PLAY MUSIC FROM AROUND THE WORLD Enchants at 54 Below

For more information on Rachel Handman and Keve Wilson follow them on Facebook. For more delightful acts at 54 below, go to 54below.com


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