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BWW Review: TONY YAZBECK Gloriously Dances Through Life at 54 Below

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Tony Yazbeck Brings his Wonderful Act to 54 Below Sep. 21-22

BWW Review: TONY YAZBECK Gloriously Dances Through Life at 54 Below

The stage at 54 Below was emptier than I've ever seen it last night, with only a piano and a few mic stands. But the reason for the lack of set dressing quickly became clear. Tony Yazbeck was about to fill the small space with dance. Tony Yazbeck (Flying Over Sunset, On the Town, White Christmas, Gypsy) is the dictionary definition of "triple threat" and he has been acting, singing and dancing on Broadway since the tender age of 11. He is a song and dance man in the tradition of Astaire and Kelly with a slate of awards and nominations to prove it. When clever writers talk about "poetry in motion," Yazbeck could well be what they have in mind.

His self-titled show is a celebration of motion. And make no mistake, dance is Tony Yazbeck's native language. His entire demeanor alters when he begins to tap. His face lights up and his entire being exudes joy. If reincarnation exists, I want to come back with the ability to move as gracefully as Tony Yazbeck.

BWW Review: TONY YAZBECK Gloriously Dances Through Life at 54 Below

His show began with an invocation of sorts. Lionel Rand and Ian Grant's "Let There Be Love" summoned up the MGM world that Yazbeck clearly adores. He made it clear by explaining that it all began for him watching Fred Astaire in Shall We Dance? on television. He recreated the experience in a Gershwin medley that included "Shall We Dance?," "Slap That Bass," "Beginner's Luck," " Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," and "They All Laughed." His delight at being back in front of a live audience was palpable as he crooned through "New York State of Mind." He sang very clever arrangements of "Something's Coming" and "Old Devil Moon" put together by musical director Jerry Korman. Korman also arranged a very fresh take on Yazbeck's song from Gypsy, "All I Need Is the Girl." Yazbeck's tap solo in this number was nothing short of dazzling.

He took a short break to welcome guest star, Phillip Attmore (Hello, Dolly! Shuffle Along, After Midnight,) who tore up the stage with a virtuoso tribute to Hermes Pan and Ann Miller in Cole Porter's "Too Darn Hot." It was a thrilling Broadway-sized performance on the postage-stamp-sized stage of 54 Below. Yazbeck returned to sang another Fred Astaire classic, "They Can't Take That Away from Me" before shifting gears to talk about his new role as dad to a 4-year-old son. He treated us to "Neverland" from Finding Neverland. He expressed his infinite gratitude with an introspective moment from On the Town, "Lucky to Be Me," and talked about how he survived the pandemic by literally tapping his troubles away in his home studio. He demonstrated this with Gershwin's "Can't Be Bothered Now." It was a full-out production number.

BWW Review: TONY YAZBECK Gloriously Dances Through Life at 54 Below

He welcomed his second guest star of the evening, Michelle Dorrance of Dorrance Dance Company. She is the choreographer of his upcoming Broadway show, Flying Over Sunset. Dorrance gave us a beautifully stylized version of "I Can't Give You Anything But Love." Her precision was captivating. The highlight of the evening was Yazbeck's beautiful and bittersweet performance of Both Sides Now. He completely captured the world-weary quality of Joni Mitchell's famous lyrics. He wrapped up his concert with one final MGM moment, singing "Almost Like Being in Love" by Lerner and Loewe.

The unsung hero of the evening was music director/pianist/arranger Jerry Korman. He kept this marvelous celebration of the dance in perpetual motion. The encore was an embarrassment of riches in which Yazbeck welcomed back Phillip Attmore and Michelle Dorance for a brilliant dance-off to Jimmy McHugh's "The Sunny Side of the Street." It sent me off into the misty NYC night with a song in my heart and lift in my step.

BWW Review: TONY YAZBECK Gloriously Dances Through Life at 54 Below

For more information on Tony Yazbeck follow him @TonyYazbeck on Twitter or @tappntony on Instagram. To learn more about Michelle Dorrance and Phillip Attmore, go to dorrancedance.com and phillipattmore.com, respectively. Tony Yazbeck performs again tonight, Sep. 22 at 54 Below. For tickets and information, visit 54below.com.


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