BWW Reviews: Drew Gasparini's KEEPIN' THE PARTY GOING is Electric Entertainment
In a market dominated largely by living legends, the young and up-and-coming composers of Broadway-caliber musical theatre have a hard time breaking into the scene. However, that's not keeping Drew Gasparini from sharing his music wherever and whenever he can. Serving more or less as a follow-up to I Could Use a Drink (his album of musical theatre tunes and pop compositions), Gasparini invited fans and newcomers to his ongoing party with KEEPIN' THE PARTY GOING at 54 BELOW on Monday, January 5, 2015.
The all new cabaret featured a set list mostly compromised of tunes written and orchestrated by Gasparini. Despite knowing that they wouldn't be hearing any of their favorites, the energy in 54 BELOW on Monday night was incredibly high. The sold-out crowd was electric and couldn't wait to hear the new songs. Those who had been to a Gasparini show before knew they were in for a rousing night of great music and boisterous party banter between numbers. Those new to his shows simply knew they would be guaranteed a great time, which was only reinforced by the pre-show photo booth with props and the drinking games played after every third or fourth song.
The raucous 16 performances of the evening featured a wonderful mix of New York City's young musical theatre talent. With all the energy and drive of contemporary pop rock, the performers, in addition to Gasparini's accompaniment and compositions, had the audience cheering all night long. Jason Gotay, Preston Sadler, and Ephie Aardema opened the show with "High Dee-Yi." This jazzy ditty made 54 BELOW feel like a swinging speakeasy in Prohibition era New York City, and left the audience nicely buzzed. F. Michael Haynie dazzled audiences with his lively and bright tenor instrument and trumpet skills on "Lady." Other standouts included the spectacular cover of Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars' "Uptown Funk" performed by the entire company and the adorable "Hey Hey Honey Pie" sung by Gasparini, Kasie Gasparini, and Chloe Gasparini.
Each of the joyously amusing numbers throughout the evening served as a pristine example of Gasparini's ability to write fun songs that just make you want to dance; however, he also showcased emotional breadth and impressive maturity as well. Lauren T. Mack brought striking life to the uplifting anthem "Hello to the New Me" with her powerful yet gorgeous alto instrument. Kasie Gasparini's vocal strength and stamina made the richly poignant lyrics of the gripping "Back From the Dead" incredibly evocative. On "Burnout," Alex Brightman sang with passion and vigor, ensuring that the poetry of Gasparini's lyrics pummeled the audiences' hearts in all the right ways. Other emotionally stirring numbers included Ben Crawford on "Put Me Out" and Chloe Gasparini on "You Make Me Want to Scream."
The deft band capably supported the vocal musicians by intoning each of the pieces with emotionality and pizzazz as well. Gasparini led the band on the piano and acoustic guitar. Adam Stoler brought fireworks to the numbers with his bold electric guitar skills. Justin Goldner on bass and Jeremy Yaddaw on drums ensured the pieces were infectious and had the audience tapping their feet while swaying in their seats.
Until Monday I was among the uninitiated to a Gasparini show. Now that I've attended one of those parties, I can't wait to go back. In all of my experiences at 54 BELOW, I have never seen the room so alive. To be honest, I'm pretty sure Con Edison of New York has to pay Gasparini and 54 BELOW for the energy pouring out of the crowd at Keepin' the Party Going. Lastly, one can only hope that this cabaret gets the album treatment, and soon.