BWW Reviews: Annaleigh Ashford's LOST IN THE STARS is Effervescent, Bubbly Fun at 54 Below
The quirkily charming and undeniably beautiful Broadway star Annaleigh Ashford opened her solo cabaret Lost In The Stars at 54 BELOW last night. With a deft sense of humor, a glowing smile, a big spoon, and indefatigable pizazz, Ashford brought the 1970s back to life with her inspired takes on disco classics and other pop anthems that we all know by heart. Squeezed between the early and late shows, Ashford's Lost In The Stars gives audiences a perfect blend of both timeslots to offer audiences a performance that ranges from mild to wild but never fails to impress.
Whether you fell in love with her in Wicked, Legally Blonde, Dogfight, Kinky Boots, or Submissions Only, you've never seen Ashford quite like this. She enters 54 BELOW's intimate space to the throbbing beats pouring from Steve Gilewski's bass guitar and Mason Ingram's energetic percussion, performing the delicately disco Broadway gem "One Night Only" (Henry Kreiger/Tom Eyen) from Dreamgirls. As the set progresses, Ashford thrills audiences with her bright pop Broadway voice and sustainable belt. She effortlessly moves through her high register, utilizing it for emotional effect. Her voice is clear as she sings with the gusto of modern Broadway pop vocals on songs like "Date With Myself" (Breedlove). She cleverly showcases a more Liza Minnelli and Judy Garland vocal approach on numbers like "Come Rain or Come Shine" (Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer). With tunes like "Love Hurts" she croons in a Top 40 Radio friendly way, while she gives audiences full on disco diva belting her humorous history lesson about Studio 54 during her Donna Summer Medley. Ashford does it all with grace and incomparable style, consistently keeping the audience on their toes and tickling our ribs along the way.
Music Director Will Van Dyke, who also did all the arrangements and orchestrations for Lost In The Stars, leads the talented band on the piano. He keenly defers to Ashford letting her vamp as much as she wants during her lively anecdotes. In performance he follows her lead and gently keeps her in the correct key when her own excitement and enthusiasm to be performing threaten to do her in. Luckily for both Ashford and the audience, she never misses a beat. She makes cute quips about the key and powers through in a way that entertains without ever sounding bad. Likewise, her personality sparkles and she is wholly genuine in performance. It is clear she loves her audience as much as they love her.
Moreover, Alec Berlin's skillful guitar is just as vibrant as Ashford, especially during solos. Allison Seidner on the cello gives the band a meaty tone that blends the Broadway ambience with the pop vibe. Will Van Dyke also takes on the ukulele and accordion during the concert, adding nice layers of whimsy to the show.
You'd have to be dead inside not to get a kick out of watching Ashford. She is effervescent, bubbly, and incandescent in performance. Whether taking a risk by telling edgy jokes about cocaine and Studio 54's sordid past, singing songs that one wouldn't expect a white girl from Colorado to blow audiences away on, or playing it safe with classics from the American Songbook, Ashford owns the stage in her cabaret concert. And, the audience couldn't be happier. Her beaming spirit sends us home high on life.
Annaleigh Ashford will perform Lost In The Stars again at 54 BELOW on December 8 at 9:30 p.m., December 15 at 9:30 p.m., and December 26 at 11:30 p.m. For tickets and more information, please visit http://54below.com or call (646) 476-3551.