Review: With A BROAD WITH A BROAD BROAD MIND Emily Skinner Brings Absolute Honesty to 54 Below

Emily Skinner is back on stage at Feinstein's. No filter? No problem.

By: Jul. 30, 2021
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Review: With A BROAD WITH A BROAD BROAD MIND Emily Skinner Brings Absolute Honesty to 54 Below

There was a moment during her act last night when Emily Skinner remarked that, for her post-pandemic return to the nightclub stage, she had wanted to produce a show that was authentic. It's a great word, authentic, and nothing, from the moment her golden heels touched down on the stage to the time she disappeared around the corner into the 54 Below kitchens, could have been a more accurate description of A BROAD WITH A BROAD BROAD MIND. Many cabaret performers successfully create club acts that reveal their true self to the crowd, sharing personal stories, intimate observations, exclusive glances into their life philosophies, unique humors, all the things that make a person an individual. What with social media and logorrhea, there is no wealth of privacy these days, but often are the times when a passing admission, seemingly personal, carries with it the burden of insincerity, the mood of agenda. It is abundantly clear that Emily Skinner has one agenda and one agenda only: the stripping away of all that is not firmly rooted in absolute honesty so that her art and her legend can live in the hearts and the memories of her audience.

And they will.

Review: With A BROAD WITH A BROAD BROAD MIND Emily Skinner Brings Absolute Honesty to 54 Below Every person who was lucky enough to see A BROAD WITH A BROAD BROAD MIND last night will carry the experience with them into the future, and every person who is smart enough to get a ticket to the next two performances will benefit from the same fate. Ms. Skinner, one of the true gifts to the theatrical industry, has created a club act that does the seemingly impossible: it changes the perception of the audience without grandstanding. There are little lessons to be absorbed throughout the show (which isn't the point of doing a cabaret but can be a benefit), whether they come from a casual throw-away comment for laughs, or a direct statement about handling one's life and the struggles that come with it. Like a brassy prophet in bejeweled spectacles, Ms. Skinner is an Energizer Bunny of Entertainment, blissfully saying whatever comes into her head and applying it to perfected performances of songs both well-known to the listeners, or brand-new. Whatever composition is applied to each story, revelation or lesson being shared, Emily Skinner emerges (as she always has) as one of the greatest actresses, singing or otherwise, in the business. In twelve songs and one hour, Ms. Skinner provides a musical carnival ground where the rides are a thrill-a-minute (even the ballads) leaving you wishing for another go-round. Indeed, were time and money not a consideration, this writer would attend each of the remaining performances.

Famous for her comedic timing, Emily reaches new heights of hilarity in a paean to vegetarianism, and a self-professed teetotaler, she proves why playing alcoholics has become a thing for her, using desperation as inspiration to bring to life a famous musical theater character who drinks all her meals. Skinner's master class in cabaret overflows with comedy, even when she is singing Seventies rock, talking about her pandemic experience, or goofing off with Musical Director Jonathan Fischer, who has her back at every turn, and with whom she has chemistry you couldn't buy at the Drama Bookshop. It's a fabulous pairing, not just because of the palpable connection they share but because Fischer is a game guy, ready and willing to go anywhere that Emily and the story need him to, a major factor in the success of the program. The night is not all comedy, though, and when it's not it is because Ms. Skinner is deeply in touch with her emotions and those of the audience, and the need to let a little poignancy flow.

Review: With A BROAD WITH A BROAD BROAD MIND Emily Skinner Brings Absolute Honesty to 54 Below With her heart-stopping beauty and heartbreaking voice, Ms. Skinner leaves the audience moony and sighing from exquisite ballads about the end of a love affair, and overstaying a trip to the fair, seated in absolute stillness to give the song and the storytelling the laser focus they deserve, and such stillness in an actor is a rarity to behold, important and valuable, capable of causing an entire room to hold their breath. This is the power of Emily Skinner, who takes one of the most famous and suggestive musical theater songs of all time and turns it into a haunting character study of an older woman caught off guard, searching, not just being bewitched or bothered or bewildered, but all three in the exact same moment. Like her "Send in the Clowns" from The Prince of Broadway, this is a performance of an oft-sung song that stands out from the rest, in all of Emily's individual and magical splendor.

Everything Emily Skinner does in this new show is informed, not just by authenticity, but by originality, with every interpretation unveiling a side of the song you, perhaps, never even considered before. Even in her tribute to silver screen powerhouse Mae West, Skinner manages to stand out as an original, for in this one number she demonstrates the greatest representation of Mae West ever produced, including all the drag queens, impersonators, and actresses who have been sent out to recreate the legend. Not an impersonation, not a caricature, not a knock-off or a parody, the woman on the stage last night was Mae West in the person of Emily Skinner. So precise was the octave of the voice, the tremble of the vibrato, the suggestion of Miss West, every inflection, every weight shift, every raised eyebrow, every pursed-lip that the writing is on the wall: some incredibly musical theater writer needs to write The Mae West Musical, and they need to do it just for Emily Skinner. All the writers, all the producers, all the directors need to be creating shows just for Emily Skinner, but this one must be the priority: it is doubtful that any actress will come along who is better suited to bringing Miss West to new generations of fans, and older devotees of the legend.

Whether it is during the Mae West portion of her show or any of the other outstanding moments to be enjoyed during A BROAD WITH A BROAD BROAD MIND, there is no denying that Emily Skinner has elevated her artistry to new heights by dispensing with her need to self-edit. This new freedom discussed in her show may not be the reason for her own unique brand of brilliance, but it certainly has given her more chances to bring the brilliance right into the living room and show it off, in all of her refreshing honesty, and from the seats out front, it all looks pretty darn spectacular.

Emily Skinner A BROAD WITH A BROAD BROAD MIND plays Feinstein's/54 Below July 30 and 31 at 7 pm. For information and tickets visit the 54 Below website HERE.

Emily Skinner has a website that can be found HERE.

Come back to Broadway World Cabaret tomorrow for a full photo essay from A BROAD WITH A BROAD BROAD MIND.

Review: With A BROAD WITH A BROAD BROAD MIND Emily Skinner Brings Absolute Honesty to 54 Below


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