BWW Reviews: Houston Talent Wows 54 BELOW with CUZ WE'RE F#CKING TALENTED
On December 8, 2014, Houston, Texas took 54 BELOW by storm during the inaugural Cuz We're F#cking Talented cabaret concert at the esteemed venue. Nestled in the basement of the legendary Studio 54 at 254 West 54th Street in New York City, this packed to capacity 11:30 p.m. on a Monday night performance of the new series featured a mix of Broadway's and Houston's best talents belting and riffing for the sheer joy of killing it in live performance. Why? Well, why not?
The evening was emceed by Straight From New York Founder and Artistic Director Tyce Green. He introduced the gathered audience to the series and let us know that we were in for an evening of belting, screlting, and talented singers performing for the sheer love of performing. There wasn't a theme. There wasn't a gimmick. There just the desire to tear the roof off of 54 BELOW and dazzle those gathered in the room.
Broadway veteran Kate Rockwell opened the show with "Black Coffee" (Sonny Burke). Her rendition started off with a sleepy jazz timbre, and she built the number to a sensual toast to debaucherous fun. Next up, Houstonian Holland Vavra put a humorous spin on Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" as she mixed sultry vocals and her impressive belt with adorable quips and dead-pan facial expressions that read pure innocence. Moreover, Vavra's sterling performance moved the audience to cheers and enthusiastic applause multiple times during her performance. Then, Houston ex-pat Arielle Murphy performed a rousing rendition of "Masterpiece" (Josh Alexander/Britt Burton/Emily Warren).
Star of RENT and IF/THEN, Anthony Rapp took the stage to thunderous applause and cheers. With Rockwell, he delivered a beautifully understated rendition of the indie-rock classic "Falling Slowly" (Glen Hansard) from ONCE. Unfortunately, Rockwell had trouble finding pitch during the last half of the song, making it sound as if she and Rapp were dueling more than dueting. Houston-area transplant and Broadway star Katie Rose Clarke sang an original number (co-authored with the concert's musical director Steven Jamail) titled "Today." Her dulcet pop-country tones carried the sweet melody and its inspiring message straight into the hearts of the audience.
Tackling "What About Love" (Brian Allen/Sheron Alton/ Jim Vallance) with pizzazz and electrifying skill, Green gave the beloved 80s rock anthem new life. His rock belting and keen use of head voice left the audience whooping, hollering, and applauding his inspired performance. Lauren Blackman followed Green with a pop-jazz spin on "(Sittin' On) Dock of the Bay" (Steve Cropper/Otis Redding), performing the song in a way that was reminiscent of Regina Spektor but also completely unique and original. Lastly, American Idol alum and Broadway's favorite rock star Constantine Maroulis rocked out with Green to an energetic take on his original song "Girl Like You," and he closed the show with his tried and true version of "Bohemian Rhapsody" (Freddie Mercury).
On the piano, Jamail lead the band through the rollicking evening of vibrant entertainment. Micah Burgess on rhythm guitar filled the air with appealing melodies and solos. Colin Dean kept the music going with his rhythmic riffs on the upright and electric bass. Jerey Yaddaw's drumming pulsated with indefatigable spirit.
Holland Vavra. Photo by Kevin Bianchi.
Tyce Green. Photo by Kevin Bianchi.
Lauren Blackman. Photo by Kevin Bianchi.