BWW Review: TITUSS BURGESS TAKE ME TO THE WORLD Dazzles at Carnegie Hall
Sometimes, when the stars align, cabaret can take you out of the world for a few magical hours. Tituss Burgess's glittering spectacle Take Me to the World did just that last Saturday night. He transformed the gilded stage at Carnegie Hall into a nonstop giddy celebration of Stephen Sondheim's work, culminating in a touching, understated finale.
Tituss Burgess skyrocketed to cult fame status after his breakout role in the 2015 Netflix sitcom Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. This is his first fully-staged concert. He pulled out all the stops, with a 13-piece band and a full ensemble in addition to incredibly talented guest stars (Jane Krakowski, Lillias White, Orfeh, and Michael McElroy).
The concert loosely followed Burgess's personal story of how he made it from a small, rural town in Georgia to be at a sold-out Carnegie Hall show, and how Stephen Sondheim inspired his journey here. During "Merrily We Roll Along," they projected photos from Burgess's past, a tongue-in-cheek nod to the lyrics "How did we get to be here / What was the moment?"
Burgess made a dramatic entrance about ten minutes into the show. The band and ensemble headed up the first few songs, building up enough tension that the crowd went crazy when he finally appeared, wearing a sparkly white suit.
Hearing Burgess sing in person is an unforgettable experience. From the start of the concert, he had a totally mesmerizing stage presence. He chose songs well suited to his voice and style, starting with the comedic "I'm Calm" from Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. A big-budget allowed Burgess to go bigger than most staged concerts, and he had fun with it, doing some big group numbers like the opening numbers from Sunday in the Park With George (Burgess played Bernadette Peter's character wearing a ridiculous clip-on dress, with great comedic timing) and Company. There was lovely choreography by Matthew Johnson Harris throughout the evening.
Though Burgess excelled in the comedic numbers, he carried the dramatic songs equally well. Towards the end of the show, he opened up about what Sondheim's work has meant in his life. Seeing Sunday in the Park With George on PBS was his first-ever exposure to musical theater, and Sondheim's work helped "take [him] to the world" as the title song of the concert suggested.
The concert would have been enough had it not been for the stellar guest stars - but the guest talent put the evening over the edge. As Burgess started to faux-strip to "Let Me Entertain You," Jane Krakowski stepped onstage to "show you how it's done." She pulled out all the stops on a sexy, burlesque-style dance to "Sooner or Later" from Dick Tracy. Krakowski, Orfeh and Lillias White each had a drop-dead amazing solo number peppered throughout the concert. The three of them joined together for "You've Gotta Get a Gimmick" - and if you haven't seen that number performed by three legends, then I guess you don't know the true meaning of the word fabulous.
I could go on, but I'll leave it there. Towards the end, Burgess hinted at a possible limited run on Broadway (producers, get out your checkbooks). If that should happen, run, don't walk, to get your tickets before they're gone.