BWW Reviews: Jessica Vosk Thrills 54 Below in Debut NYC Solo Show I CAME FROM JERSEY FOR THIS
Playing her debut NYC solo show I Came From Jersey For This to a sold out house at 54 Below, Jessica Vosk took the intimate venue by storm. Dazzling audiences with her talent, energy, sincerity, and humor, she put up a perfectly crafted cabaret tribute to her journey from singing with her dad in the living room of their New Jersey home to landing roles on Broadway. Just as she promised in the interview I did with her, this was no therapy session, but rather a celebration of the music that motivates and inspires her.
Vosk has had a varied and great career on New York stages. She notably appeared in the New York Philharmonic's production of Company, which starred Neil Patrick Harris; made her Broadway debut in The Bridges of Madison County; starred as Anita in San Francisco Symphony Orchestra's West Side Story; and will appear in the upcoming Broadway musical Finding Neverland. She took the stage with style and grace, delivering a rousing rendition of "Shadows of the Night" (D.L. Byron/Myron Grombacher and Pat Benatar). Opening the number with a lovely a cappella section, she and Marissa Rosen, on back-up vocals, got the audience pumped for the thrilling show. After the thunderous applause from the packed to capacity crowd died down, Vosk mused, "I kind of feel like the Hamilton of cabaret tonight." Dedicated to her father who taught her how to sing and harmonize, she sweetly sang a gorgeous version of "Under the Boardwalk" (Kenny Young, Arthur Resnick), showcasing pop vocals that were reminiscent of Olivia Newton-John in Grease.
With the slightest hint of a country twang, she performed a lovely and lively rendition of "I've Just Seen a Face" (John Lennon, Paul McCartney). This was immediately chased with "I Had a Dream About You" (Maury Yeston), which she sang with tangible heart and emotionality. Shifting gears, Vosk launched into a hysterical rendition of "Regretting What I Said..." (Christine Lavin). She tackled the utterly adorable ditty with charisma and charm, leaving the audience in stitches, and before we could regain our composure she has us rolling with her adorable Presidente Margarita jingle set to the tune of "Bootylicious" (Beyoncé Knowles, Rob Fusari, Falonte Moore, Stevie Nicks).
Reading from one of Vosk's childhood diaries, Andréa Burns made an entrance and joined Vosk on "Galileo" (Emily Saliers). Dueting on the song, both women complimented each other vocally and sounded great together, ensuring that the song was warmly toned and vibrant.
Next, Vosk shared with the audience the part of her journey where she abandoned her dreams of music for the stability and stress of the business of finance for almost three years. She launched into a hope filled, dewy-eyed rendition of "How to Succeed" (Frank Loesser). This was followed by "Everyday a Little Death" (Stephen Sondheim) featuring Martha Plimpton. Plimpton's serene, dusky voice paired well with Vosk's opulent and rich tone, making this the best rendition of the number I have ever heard.
With an almost manic drive, Vosk delivered an angsty rendition of "Let the Rain" (Sara Barielles), which was immediately chased by a powerfully moving version of "Chandelier" (Sia Furler, Messe Shatkin). Cellist Mairi Dorman-Phaneuf gave a commanding performance on the popular song and Vosk let loose emotionally, delivering riveting vocals. The audience exploded into a vociferous standing ovation at the conclusion of the song, and applauded and cheered for several minutes afterward.
Next up was a beguiling delivery of "I Will Follow" (Jason Robert Brown), which was dedicated to her boyfriend whom she met in Theatre Under the Stars' production of Man of La Mancha. "Prison changed my life," she joked. "We met in prison. That's what we tell people."
Then Vosk started singing a stunning version of "Our Time" (Lucy Simon/Marsha Norman). Throughout the evening she had talked about how important The Secret Garden and seeing Rebecca Luker on stage in the show was to her, but the surprise reveal of Luker as a guest during this number sent the audience into a frenzy. As the women sang together, joy erupted from the stage and audience alike. The electricity in the air was palpable and surreal.
After the excitement of the evening, Vosk closed her show with a subdued and delicate version of "The Circle Game" (Joni Mitchell). The enthusiastic audience heartily applauded her as she exited the stage and cheered as she returned for her Jersey Medley encore. Vosk and Rosen left the audience on a high note and wanting more as they powered through a mash-up of "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" (George Merrill, Shannon Rubicam), "My Way" (Claude François, Jacques Revaux), and "I'm on Fire" (Bruce Springsteen). Together, they closed the show with an ebullient and vivacious rendition of "Livin' on a Prayer" (Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, Desmond Child).
Music Director Brad Simmons lead the talented and effervescent band on piano, guaranteeing that Vosk and the audience had a dynamic musical backdrop for the concert. Randy Landau on bass and Shannon Ford on drums kept the beats coming and made the music all the more infectious. Justin Goldner on guitar layered in luscious melodies, and Dorman-Phaneuf's work on the cello kept the music grounded and emotionally centered.
I Came From Jersey For This was more than just an enjoyable evening. It was a powerhouse of a show that showcased the incredible talents of everyone involved. The smartly conceived and developed cabaret show was co-written by Vosk and Robbie Rozelle and features arrangements by Mary-Mitchell Campbell, James Sampliner, and Josh D. Smith.
If you didn't have a ticket to the debut of this show, never fear. Plans are coming together for encore performances in the future. In the meantime, be sure to check out Vosk in Finding Neverland, which stars Matthew Morrison, Kelsey Grammer, and Laura Michelle Kelly. Previews begin on Sunday, March 15, 2015, and opening night is set for April 15, 2015. For tickets to and more information about this production, please visit http://findingneverlandthemusical.com or call (877) 250-2929.